Aarts Plastics, specialist in bespoke molding solutions, is riding the wave as brands clamour to create custom looks for their products. Expansion is well under way to accommodate new business and the future is looking particularly bright for the company as Rob Geurtz takes time out from his busy schedule to provide us with some insights.
What's new at Aarts Plastics right now?
At the moment, we're really very busy with all kinds of projects and investments. The company has been going from strength to strength and with everything that has been happening we've increased our turnover by double digits, both last year and already this year to date!
Being so busy is truly a great problem to have, but it does mean that I can't disclose any information about any of our new projects which we are working on right now. Naturally, the brands that we are working with don't want us to disclose their designs and strategies until they are ready for market, so you'll just have to wait until then!
Can you tell us if your new projects are all for the beauty and cosmetic industry where you tend to focus?
Almost, about 80% of our work is targeted towards the cosmetics industry and we've also got some new developments for the food market too.
Last year we started working with Liberal Spec which was completely new for us and right now we are building additional packaging lines for several caps because of the big volumes commanded by the market. One of the latest packs, a lipgloss, was created according to the client's requirements with us building the tools - 16-cavity tools. The knowledge that we have gained throughout the development of this project is something which can be applied to other projects in the future. It's all a learning process. Customers have confidence in our learning competence and this is something which benefits us in the future as it enables us to successfully attain new customers.
You've recently been involved in a project for innovative new coffee capsules. Can you tell us more about the project?
Aarts Plastics was approached by BlueCup following market research they had done looking at the coffee industry and the increased use of coffee capsules in particular. Seeing the figures and the company's enthusiasm for the project, it was easy for us to participate in the project as it looked really interesting.
As a rule, we, like many companies are somewhat sceptical about working on this type of innovation, especially with a new company as you never know if the project will be a successful one or not, but BlueCup's research was thorough and we were confident to work with them on the project. A lot of our successful projects have been with cosmetic brands whereby the customer also invests a lot into the marketing of their new product, so it almost always involves a launch with quite some volume behind it. Over the years we have become specialized in luxury packaging, although we still work on many other packaging projects too, but it is always interesting to be challenged to work on something new.
What feedback have you received about the capsules?
The BlueCup capsules have had an excellent introduction onto the market. So far HEMA, a well-known company in Holland with shop branches across Europe, has proven the capsules to be popular and several re-orders have already been received! BlueCup has been showcasing the capsule at European exhibitions and is now working on its website, so in turn we are getting ready for the next large orders!
The project itself was something in which we had to invest a lot of manpower in order to develop. There was a lot of preparation to do - drawing, choice of material, testing, and product qualification... It took quite a long time and effort because of the initial volume, but the effort has been worth it.
Does BlueCup have a patent on the product?
Indeed it does. We started it with them because we liked the product concept and we believed in it. It is a very important aspect for us in the projects on which we work.
The capsules are an interesting concept - being refillable and of course the environmental factor. Being able to drink your own coffee with them just might become the next big thing in coffee!
We certainly hope so! Right now they are being targeted to larger customers in Germany and France where volumes are often very much higher. Also, because almost half of the world's coffee is imported here into Europe, both we and BlueCup are perfectly positioned geographically.
Aarts Plastics has invested a lot in expansion during recent years. Is that still happening?
We have indeed expanded - both our premises and our production capacity. We started renting the building next door to us a few years ago and last year we purchased it and then connected the two buildings. In the new area we now have about ten machines: This year so far we bought three new machines and another used machine in France as we required prompt delivery so that we could keep up with market demand. This investment in our capacity is important. We are investing in our future growth to bring the company to the next level.
Are the new machines all injection molding machines?
Yes, they are all injection machines that we have purchased. As standard we also buy robots with the machines as we like to invest in automation because the use of robots saves on both time and error, therefore increasing the quality of our offering.
Costs are also reduced as we can reduce the number of employees and invest in experienced technical engineers. The automation that we have is engineered in-house which means that we have an internal technical and mold department, and in the mold department we also make the parts that we require for the automation.
We buy standard Kawasaki robots or a total solution from the machinery supplier, Arburg. They can supply the machines that we use with a linear robot system which is a customized solution for our specific needs. This means that almost every machine at Aarts Plastics has a robot and dedicated side equipment. The linear robots can only move horizontally and vertically, and with the 5-axis robot you can do almost anything with the components taken from the machine. By using the robots too, the quality of the finished product is significantly increased as they are both fast and accurate.
For the manufacturing process we have systems whereby we do the molding - one or two shot, or bi-injection molding - and the components are taken from the machine and placed on the assembly line. From there the side equipment takes over for assembly and finally the products are boxed. The best way to describe the system is like "plug and play" with the packaging unit at the end of the line. Once that is done labels are added, the box is closed and quality control checks take place. It's a very efficient system, especially for cosmetic industry products where we actively target customers that bring in certain volume loads because for those volumes we can offer the best production solutions.
Does that mean that most of your business is for bespoke projects?
Yes, that is correct. We need to make specific molds for each project and have a specialized project department staffed by experienced professionals with a lot of expertise in injection moulding. This team does the development together with the customers, acting as project managers, whereby they take the concept through the development stage until they finally hand it over to the production team.
Do you have any standard products?
We have a small selection of fragrance caps which are standard products and also some standard products for other markets. Previously Aarts Plastics served a number of markets, very often producing packaging for pharmaceutical clients in particular, therefore we have some standard products available for these markets too. However, rather than having hundreds of products available to choose between as some companies do, our focus is on bespoke products whereby we work closely with our customers to create their inspiration as a physical product.
With so many large and important projects in the pipeline, how do you see the foreseeable future at Aarts Plastics?
It's all very positive as we have been investing in our production capacity and through the business that we have started with several companies over the last few years, we can now expand our business with them even further. We are also ready and able to take new customers on board!
Are you still focusing on Europe or have you started entry into the US market as you mentioned last year?
The cosmetics industry is a market where many players operate on a global scale. Consequently, our products
are being sold in other regions as well. Therefore, our business is expanding to regions outside of Europe as well.
Within Europe we're working on various projects with our customers, which include some very well-known brands, and a large customer here in Holland which supplies the Rossman shops chain in Germany. Some of the projects are really interesting, but it's all under wraps right now!
How do you reach out to new customers? Do you have a large sales team?
What we do have is access to a good network and we have excellent project managers as I explained before, so that once a new customer is on board we work in very close collaboration with them. Because of the confidence in this working relationship, we are regularly invited to participate in other or future business opportunities which is a great endorsement for us.
As well as customer visits, we also participate at some well-known packaging events. During the course of the next year we will be attending PCD Paris in January, Packaging Innovations in April here in Holland and LuxePack Monaco in October.