EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW – Gerresheimer: Plastic Perfection
Niels Düring could probably turn a tablet container upside down in many places around the world and read the word DUMA on it. This brand has been a very important part of his career because he’s been involved with it right up to the present day. The name DUMA is derived from the surname of Peter Dudek, the man who established a plastics factory in Værløse by the name of Dudek Plast in 1964 and a Swedish company called Mavello. Today, the Duma product family sets the global standard for plastic pharmaceutical containers. Mr. Düring, who has a background of accounting being a CPA, started working with Dudek Plast A/S in 1991. He went on to become a Partner and Managing Director of the company in 1996. He and Peter Dudek sold the company in 1999 to Superfos A/S and, and from then on, he was in charge of the Pharmaceutical Packaging Division of Superfos. Throughout the following years, Superfos focused exclusively on the production of pharmaceutical packaging. At the end of 2005, the Gerresheimer Group acquired the Superfos Pharma Packaging division and offered Mr. Düring the position Head of Gerresheimer Plastic Packaging. Drug Development & Delivery recently spoke with Mr. Düring to discuss Gerresheimer’s Plastic Packaging division and the complementary synergies working for a company that also manufactures glass provides.
Q: What are your favorite principles?
A: Never expect more from others than you expect from yourself; treat others as you would like to be treated; and integrity, honesty, hard work, and willingness to learn are the key to success.
Q: Gerresheimer manufactures both plastic and glass containers? Is it difficult to work in a company that has competing products?
A: Not at all! As I see it, the products complement each other rather than competing with each other. Glass has obvious strengths and advantages that create the value in the customer products, where plastics – the newer material – offers different features, advantages, and benefits, so it is the basis for the next generation of many products.
Q: Do you derive any synergies from the know-how transfer between your glass and plastics experts?
A: The market and customers are, to a certain extent, the same, so we have advantages through our sales set-up and through knowledge-sharing between our glass and plastics colleagues. We are also able to offer our customers an even more comprehensive range of products. We give them the value they need to continue developing and optimizing their business. From a technological perspective, however, the glass and plastics processes are quite different, so the KPIs are also very different. That having been said, we both need to stay committed to improving our competitiveness. The key drivers are people, processes, constant technological development, and ensuring value for money.
Q: Gerresheimer has worldwide locations for the production of plastic packaging? How do they work together?
A: Our organization is currently structured into three main regions of Europe, South America, and India. Within these regions, we try to have a single management set-up supporting the sharing of the capability, know-how, and knowledge available in the organization between each production site. In addition, one of my goals in major projects is for the management teams from different regions to make annual visits to other regions so they can learn from and be inspired by their colleagues and challenge the status quo. Looking back over the past 8 years, I’m very proud to see how all sites have developed strongly, and this development is based on reciprocal learning and the commitment to improvement.
Q: How has Gerresheimer become such a leader in the plastic packaging business?
A: Gerresheimer Plastic Packaging is made up of a number of acquired companies. Each of the companies was formerly a leader in its niche market/specialist field within our industry. By combining their expertise and promoting continuous learning and knowledge sharing, we have been able to take them to an even higher level. In Europe, we have our very well-known brand Duma, which was developed in 1967 – as a world-wide innovation – bringing solid packaging to the market in the form of HDPE bottles. The bottle itself, and the unique closure, made it the tightest container and closure concept available in the world. Our set-up in South America is also founded on some very strong brands for ophthalmic and solid applications, closures, and PET products by the name of Allplas and Védat. These strong brands are still part of the product portfolio.
Q: Which products are the drivers of your business today?
A: Gerresheimer Plastic Packaging provides a very comprehensive product portfolio for solid, ophthalmic, liquid, and parenteral applications. The sizes range from 3-mL to 3-L bottles, plus a comprehensive assortment of excellent closures with tamper-evident or child-resistant features, or senior friendliness functions, dispenser systems, desiccants, and so on.
Q: Which products will be your drivers in the near future?
A: In addition to participating in a number of large-scale customer projects, the main drivers will be our MultiShell vials for parenteral drugs, our improved barrier solid containers, as well as devices and aids to help in the use of medications. With our Gx MultiShell, we have been able to develop a very stable homogeneous multilayer vial with a much-improved barrier and characteristics, which have also been used in improving the barrier for our solid products.
Q: In 2011, Gerresheimer acquired Védat in Brazil, followed by Triveni in India in 2012. How successful were these acquisitions?
A: Both acquisitions have successfully supported our development, but for completely different reasons. With the Védat acquisition in 2011, we were able to combine the company with our existing platform – Allplas – to create a strong, market-leading player in the Brazilian market. Even though we have a very dominant position, we have decided to act modestly by underlining to the market and to our customers that we are here to support them now and in the future. Since the acquisition, we have seen the constant strong growth and development of our platform in Brazil. The acquisition of Triveni allowed Gerresheimer Plastic Packaging to enter the Indian market. We took the opportunity to expand the current bottle operations and develop an all-inclusive offering by adding closures to the portfolio and providing full documentation of the complete packaging. We also introduced ophthalmic and parenteral products.
Q: In Brazil, Gerresheimer is one of the market leaders. Can you explain how this was accomplished?
A: As previously mentioned, Gerresheimer Plastic Packaging in South America is based on the acquisitions of Allplas and Védat. Both companies were already strong players in their fields and, as a result of their combination and our continuous development of them, we were able to become the real market leader. I’m very proud to say we have by far the most comprehensive portfolio of products supplied in very high quality. This, plus our production set-up and continuous development, have set the standard in the market.
Q: Can you explain more about Triveni and its business?
A: Triveni was the first company to start manufacturing the US-type bottles for solids in India back in the 1990s. In fact, they were the first to get a DMF on their products manufactured in India. In this position, the company has undergone more than 15 years of continuous development in the very strong and fast-moving Indian market. Gerresheimer acquired 75% of the shares with the objective of facilitating further growth and expanding its business in different ways. First, we want to extend our product portfolio in India – initially by complementing the bottle business with closures, and we expect to be ready to market child-resistant closures in 2015. We will also be offering ophthalmic and parenteral products in this market. Second, we have extended our global presence and are now able to bring the US-type solid bottles into both the US and the European markets.
Q: How do you develop new ideas? How do you get from initial idea to finished product?
A: That depends. Developing a breakthrough type of innovative product, plus the time our customers need to get the product tested, registered, and validated, we’re easily talking about 3 to 7 years. That being said, we sometimes take a more incremental approach to developing innovative products, so these projects can be implemented faster and more easily. Sometimes this can be less than a year – and in some cases, we can deliver a new range of bottles to the customer in less than a month. When you’re developing any new product or system, it’s always important to understand the requirements and the impact on the customers’ registrations and operations.
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