DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY — Three years on from K 2010, Techne Graham Packaging Co. Italia can present itself under much happier circumstances than back then.
Just a week before it was due to exhibit at K 2010, the Bologna, Italy-based company filed for creditor protection. Its stand stood empty as it dealt with the insolvency and looked for a buyer to give it financial stability.
Now at K 2013, Techne's stand (Hall 14/A2) looks smart and busy and the company has the considerable backing of Graham Packaging and its parent Rank Group, which rescued it from insolvency in April 2011.
"It was, of course, difficult going into insolvency, but we never stopped production," said Moreno Minghetti, founder of Techne and vice president, sales and business development, now that Techne has become the blow molding machinery subsidiary of Graham Packaging Co. Inc. The cause of the insolvency was a two-thirds collapse in Techne's sales, which followed the global economic downturn that started in late 2008.
"We slowed down but we never stopped production or customer service or the spare parts service. Our suppliers and customers were very respectful of our 25 years of activity and reputation, so they helped us a lot. We went through the insolvency but the company never closed and when there was the acquisition we went back to full production immediately."
Minghetti is clear about the strength that Graham Packaging's ownership has added to Techne.
"Graham Packaging is among the top three blow molded packaging players on the planet," he said. "It was already our biggest customer. So an advantage is they can assess many different technological solutions. The know-how in making bottles that Graham has, together with the know-how of making machines that we have, creates a unique solution."
Graham Packaging's ownership has also facilitated new investments by Techne. The company's home base is its facility in Castel Guelfo di Bologna, Italy, where it makes extrusion blow molding machines of all sizes, including wheel technology. It also operates a former Graham Packaging plant in Warsaw, Poland, where it makes machines, molds and extrusion heads.
In Warsaw, Techne will invest nearly $2 million next year to increase its mold production capacity. Minghetti said the company also is investing about $2 million in its latest project, a joint venture to manufacture machines in China. Its joint venture partner is Hong Kong-based Techgen Machineries Ltd., which makes different types of plastics processing equipment.
Minghetti said Techgen is a trusted partner as it has been Techne's sales agent in China for many years. Techne will make a single type of blow molding machine at the Techgen facility for the China market only. It will make the first machine deliveries next year.
The unique arrangement referred to by Minghetti, in which a packaging converter owns a machinery supplier, gives Techne the ability to make machines highly suited to the user. So following feedback from Graham Packaging's people, it has been improving its technology to help access the mold, undertake maintenance, reduce scrap, collect production data and other user-focused aspects.
"The response has been excellent, not just from Graham's users but also from the market," said Minghetti.
Techne salesmen must have some intriguing conversations selling the machines to packaging companies that are competitors to Graham Packaging.
"It is an unusual position," Minghetti agreed. "But if you think about it, there is nothing strange in that. Because, if the most successful company in the world is using the machine, it is an incentive for somebody else to use it."
Of course, there are some restrictions in what Techne can discuss and offer to third parties. Some patented technology, for example in extrusion head design, is restricted for use only by Graham Packaging.
Looking at it from the point of view of Techne's external customers, there is the question of protecting their confidentiality, too.
"We have explained the strategy in a very straightforward way to our customers, declaring our willingness to work with them," he said. "We have had no negative feedback from any of our customers. I think it is because Techne has had a good reputation for many years and therefore we keep our confidentiality with everyone.
"We deal with all the biggest blow molding companies in the world. So even before [the Graham acquisition], there were confidentiality agreements about a project or when a technician goes to a plant. That has not changed at all."
At K 2013, Techne is showing the high-speed, all-electric ADVT 2-750 extrusion blow molder. This is a 40 cavity machine, which is producing a 200 milliliter bottle at a rate of 17,000 bottles per hour.
"We are very focused on the aseptic market, milk based and other products, where we are market leaders. Drinkable yogurt is an area where we are by far market leaders," Minghetti said.