“Competition beware, we’re coming,” says Carsten Valentin, Divisional President for Industrial Film at Trioplast. Carsten joined the Swedish manufacturer of polyethylene packaging solutions last year, following the business’s acquisition by Altor Funds. Here he explains how investment will unleash the potential of the 50-year-old company as it embarks on a period of change, transformation and high growth.
Trioplast’s products including industrial sacks, refuse bags and product packaging films have a range of applications across sectors such as FMCG, construction, agriculture and forestry. Solid foundations, loyal customers and a strong brand have ensured the business has enjoyed a legacy of success. Though, within today’s highly competitive environment, the challenge now according to Carsten, is taking a relatively stable business and transforming it into a leading European manufacturer of packaging solutions.
Introducing a more commercial mindset is key to Trioplast achieving its goals, he says.
Having spent 20 years in the food industry, including 13 years at Arla, Carsten argues that the non-food packaging industry should embrace the innovative and fast-moving working practices of world-leading food companies. Trioplast’s strategy is now entirely focused on innovation and "quick to market" thinking. And product development, he explains, is all about leveraging the environmental properties of products to meet exacting customer and market demands:
“Trioplast’s customers all have environmental policies and objectives to meet and, as a plastics manufacturer, we’re part of the equation in helping companies achieve those targets. Green innovation, therefore, drives most of our investment decisions. The focus is always on how we can produce even better raw materials and increase the level of recycled plastic in our final products. Our new products are either carbon neutral, or they help customers reduce their environmental impact depending on the industry and application.”
Green product development at Trioplast now takes place under three umbrella brands – Triogreen, Trioloop and Triolean. The brands represent different ways to achieve a carbon reduction in plastic packaging – 1. Produce thinner film (Triolean); 2. Use recycled materials (Trioloop); 3. Use non-fossil raw materials (Triogreen). Each specialist area, Carsten says, is focused on developing plastic packaging products that help reduce the business’s carbon footprint.
He confirmed Trioplast is now launching products under all three brands and is delighted with the enthusiasm at the business to propel these initiatives forward:
“Employees are very proud that we’re focused on a green agenda in our product development. These alternative product concepts all either use fewer raw materials, incorporate industrial or consumer waste or combine non-fossil based bio-allocated raw materials in our films. We’ve already received positive internal and external feedback – there’s a lot of hype around the products.”
Enhancing the functionality of packaging is another core objective of the business. Pallet Load Stability, for example, is currently a major area for packaging innovation following new EU legislation that dictates loads should be secured to cope with packing line accelerations and decelerations. Improving process stability for customers in automated industries is a priority. And by developing plastic packaging that complies with this directive, while combining ‘green properties’ in its films, Trioplast is outperforming its competition.
Using recycled or non-fossil raw materials will remain a key innovation battleground for the foreseeable future, says Carsten. Trioplast currently uses between 30% to 100% recycled plastic in its products. Refuse bags, for example, are made from 100% recycled material, while industrial films use anywhere between 30% to 65%. The challenge, however, is that some of the performance qualities of polyethylene – e.g. its strength – are lost during the recycling process.
Over the next few years, though, the business expects to offer customers products with an even higher percentage of recycled materials, as technologies improve:
“The properties of recycled plastic can differ greatly from the original plastic. Consequently, traditional plastic has been difficult to recycle as a circular material for repeated reuse or formed into higher quality materials. However, as technology continues to yield ever more impressive plastic recycling innovations and results, our ability to recycle and repurpose plastic materials is getting better all the time.”
Taking a step back in the process, Carsten also highlighted a need for better systems for collecting recycled plastic. EU based companies can no longer export plastic waste, he says, so there’s a high availability of plastic waste at a time when the demand for recycled plastic is increasing. This is creating bottlenecks at the collection stage and cost has become an issue. Waste Polyethylene is now the same price – or even more expensive when purchased at certain quantities – than virgin plastic, because of the lack of raw materials.
Investment in hardware and factory recycling facilities is therefore paramount, urges Carsten. And imminent improvements at Trioplast’s Nyborg factory will ensure the business remains at the cutting edge of plastic collection practices. Trioplast is also keen to partner with organisations that help bolster the expertise it offers customers across the recycling value chain. Stena Recycling – “a one-stop-shop for waste collection” according to Carsten – is one such business:
“Trioplast products require good quality recycled plastic. Through our partnership with Stena, we’re able to leverage its excellent collection facilities to assist Danish supermarket, Netto, meet its recycling quotas. Stena collects plastic recycling from Netto’s 500+ stores and performs re-granulations on the plastic before selling raw materials to Trioplast. We then use this recycled plastic to produce garbage bags – a great example of a circular economy.”
Furthermore, to help customers make the right decisions when it comes to recycling waste, Trioplast recently launched an internal consultancy function, Trio Greenway. There’s “lots of noise” in the industry about what good and bad recycling practices look like, says Casteen. Companies are also trying to make cost-effective decisions vis-a-vis the complexity of integrating green practices into their operations. Trio Greenway aims to filter the noise and clarify which advice is the best and most applicable depending on business and industry needs. It provides lifecycle analyses of products too and indicates the full environmental impact of any potential investments. “A valuable service for understanding the issues and knowing where to start and end.”
Trioplast today is a complex business with lots of different product lines and services specifically designed for various industry sectors. This is why embedding a commercial mindset is so important, highlights Carsten, to maximise its portfolio’s potential and capture relevant market opportunities. As well as creating a new product management department, Trioplast also plans to double the size of its commercial teams over the next few years, to increase customer engagement and sales.
“We need more hunters,” says Carsten. “We’re also interested in people who balance drive and enthusiasm with practical elements of the job like reporting, account planning and key account management. Basically, we want a salesforce that is willing to adapt to the fast changing success criteria in ours and our customer’s businesses.”
As well as improving plastic sorting capabilities, investment at Trioplast’s Nyborg factory will also boost the business’s printing facilities enabling it to push more volume through the doors, win new contracts and expand faster in core European markets and within key product lines. Trioplast has set top-line growth targets up until 2025, Carsten says, and he expects the company to grow by 12% in 2020 alone. He added:
“We're on an extremely interesting journey. Each day we ask ourselves: How can we produce in the most effective way? How can we innovate? How can we create value through innovation and how can we achieve a profit? Trioplast already has effective solutions to these questions, but we always want to do more. There's real ambition here and it's an exciting time to be in our industry – for those who have the capabilities and the will, Trioplast is a fantastic place to be."
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