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Johan de Neef, Smart Packaging Solutions:

“Anticipating tomorrow’s demand by thinking outside the box”

“The largest problem in many sectors is that companies miss out on opportunities and don’t invest at the right moment. Managing a company means constantly being alert and anticipating tomorrow’s demand. To that end, it’s important not just to follow developments and changes in your own sector, but in all sectors globally,” says Johan de Neef, Business Manager of Smart Packaging Solutions. He continues: “Besides, we have to keep in mind many factors can influence the market. Considering developments are coming more and more quickly, translating all of this information to the own company isn’t easy, but it is an educational process.”

Growth in solid cardboard
Smart Packaging Solutions is part of VPK Packaging Group, which has more than a billion euro in sales. SPS makes solid cardboard packaging for meat, poultry, fruit and vegetables, fish and flowers. Over the years, the independent business Unit SPS has constantly grown. The company recently took over SolidPack in Loenen, and is now a European market leader in solid cardboard. “Growth in itself isn’t an objective for us, but we believe in our market for the full 100 per cent.”

The new Heidelberg machine

Together with the customer
Johan indicates very quickly anticipating demand is their main objective. “Because we know the sector and closely follow developments, we know what’s going on. As a company, we are very stable. Besides, we are also flexible and versatile, because we are entrepreneurs. We are not a private equity that must first consult with its shareholders. That’s why we can trade right away, and approach the market directly. Additionally, delivery reliability, expertise and quality are other points that our customers value. In short, we understand our customer, we discuss solutions together and we look at how best to approach the market with the packaging.”

In order to respond to current trends and questions from the customer, SPS invests in a number of new machines. “We have recently purchased a new Heidelberg offset printing machine at our plant in Meer, and a new punching machine will be taken into service shortly after the permission period. These two machines cost about 8 million euros combined, but it’s definitely worth it. In the long run, we will be able to respond to tomorrow's demand faster, and immediately reduce production costs. With the offset machine, quality of the images will be even better and clearer, and we can print 15,000 plates per hour. An important value within Smart Packaging Solutions is the pursuit of operational excellence.”

“Cost price naturally remains very important to our end customers,” Johan emphasises. “After all, our customers use immense volumes of boxes, and every cent then counts.” There’s definitely competition in the packaging sector. “We want to show our added value compared to other packaging on the market, such as corrugated cardboard, plastic crates and other types of packaging. Solid cardboard offers an added value in humid conditions, far-away transports or packaging that have a high quality appearance. However, we’ve had a few difficult years, because of a crisis in the sector. Part of the market in the agricultural sector was convinced that the area of this market would decrease considerably. We continued to believe and invest in the sector. We have developed and expanded a number of opportunities with our customers / partners. Together with our customers, we have sometimes thought outside the box and thus discovered other sales markets.”

SPS’s customers are mostly located in the Netherlands. “This is due to the fact that the Netherlands is the country of export in Europe. In addition, we are active in Belgium and various other European countries. We also export packaging to Asia, and North and South America.” The importance of packaging will continue to exist, according to Johan. “People buy with their eyes. Besides, sustainability is becoming more important. We see growth opportunities in all sectors in which we are already active. Looking only at the fresh produce sector, the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland are important growers for our product. Germany is also starting to export more.” To remain alert, SPS doesn’t have a five-year plan. “We make a new plan every year, and we are flexible enough in that to adjust in the meantime.” Rousing tomorrow’s customer’s interest in packaging is also one of the objectives of the company. “We regularly talk to young people at schools, and show them this is a very interesting sector. It’s so much more than just producing a stupid cardboard box,” he concludes, laughing.

For more information:
Smart Packaging Solutions
Johan De Neef
T: +32 (0)52 26 19 25
E: johan.de.neef@smartpaso.com
W: www.smart-packaging-solutions.com

Publication date: 4/20/2017


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