19 February 2020 – SACMI recently purchased Velomat, a leading designer and manufacturer of high-speed assembly machines for closures and caps, micro-pumps and medical devices. We interviewed Riccardo Rubini. Closely involved in the SACMI - Velomat project, Mr. Rubini provided us with insights into the successful new product and market synergies that led to the establishment of SACMI’s new Post Processing division.
- Riccardo, for someone so young you’ve played a pivotal role in the beverage and non-beverage machine business, recently becoming Director of the Post Processing division, a part of SACMI's Rigid Packaging Technologies business unit. What can you tell us about this new division?
RR: Velomat’s inclusion in the Group and the new Business Unit name - since 2020 Rigid Packaging Technologies - represent key milestones in SACMI’s long term strategy. For years, we’ve been operating as a sole supplier of ground-breaking technological solutions that allow our customers to produce packaging that is sustainable and has low total cost of ownership. Such solutions cover a wide range of plastic/metal caps and closures, PET preforms and plastic containers, plus in-line and stand-alone vision systems for final product quality control. And then there's Post Processing...
- Come on, don’t keep us guessing: tell us what you mean by “post processing”.
RR: The "Post Processing" division concerns all those machines downstream from the plastic or metal part molding processes that take place on our lines.... and not just our
lines. Here, then, we’re talking about slitting and folding machines for plastic cap anti-tamper bands, whether produced using compression or injection. The range also includes anti-tamper band quality control machines, that is, the PFM (pull force machine), plus downstream assembly machines.
- Assembly? That’s a whole new area. Can you give us a bit more detail?
RR: Of course. This has been a particularly interesting new development. Last year, in February 2020, at the start of the pandemic, SACMI finalized its takeover of Italian company Velomat. Located in Pescara, about a 3-hour drive from our headquarters in Imola, Velomat has over 30 years’ experience in the design and construction of cap and closure assembly platforms; these cover both the food&beverage and beauty&home sectors. Our aim is to maximize synergy between the SACMI Imola range and the Velomat range while ensuring the Pescara plant retains all the flexibility that has made it so successful in recent years. Velomat, then, falls within the sphere of solutions provided within the Post Processing division.
- Compared to other global suppliers, how is Velomat positioned in terms of size, technology and reach?
RR: Velomat employs about 60 people and has a turnover of over 9 million euro. It’s a world-leading designer of highly customized dispenser and closure assembly machines. It supplies the major global players in the beauty and home sector, as well as international converters who produce multi-component caps in both plastic and metal. Over 1,500 units have now been installed worldwide, with a strong presence in Europe, South America and North America. We provide different assembly platforms, from the more traditional (rotary index and linear index) to the continuous kinematic solutions that are the jewel in the Velomat crown. More recently, we’ve developed an innovative fully electronic platform that merges ultra-high flexibility with lower energy consumption for the customer.
- Why did SACMI - a technological leader in the construction of plants that make flat top beverage closures (i.e. that do not require assembly) - decide to enter this sector?
RR: Caps & closures constitute a vast market. About 50% concerns the classic beverage industry (i.e. the market open to our compression molding machines), while the other 50% involves products that have so far remained outside SACMI’s core areas. These include sport caps and flip-top closures yet also dispenser pumps, spray pumps and triggers: in other words, ‘complex closures’ that lay outside the scope of compression solutions, which nevertheless continue to be the cornerstone of the SACMI range. The goal is to expand into that latter 50% of the market and play a pivotal role on it. We want to make the most of the know-how - and the reputation - that Velomat has built up over the years. That means building relations with global customers and offering not just already-known assembly solutions but SACMI systems for product quality control and stand-alone anti-tamper band slitting and folding systems, all while continuing to provide compression solutions where possible. What’s more, this development dovetails smoothly with the evolution of SACMI’s range for the tethered cap market; indeed, some solutions have anticipated industry standards by several years, helping customers speed up the manufacturing conversion process and make it more profitable.
- Extremely interesting. The strategy seems clear, but since ‘appetite comes with eating’, I’ve got another question. Are you planning to provide injection systems, together with molds, for products where compression can’t be used?
RR: The goal is a clear one and will be pursued steadily and with determination. However, this does not, in any way, alter our strengths. It’s evident that the market continues to reward the competitive advantages that stem from continuous compression technology, which we’re convinced is the best technology for flat top beverage closures as it ensures outstanding final product quality and keeps production costs low. That said, it’s equally clear how compression technology is, in general, unsuitable for complex geometries: for example, just think of the parts that make up a hand sanitizer dispenser pump or the components of a sport cap. Hence, in order to expand our range by relying on skill and experience (two long-standing hallmarks of the SACMI brand), we’ve decided to take this initial step into the caps&closures assembly field to ensure we’re well placed to seize any future opportunities with technologies other than compression.
- Do you think the tethered caps aspect will have a close link with the post processing division?
RR: Definitely. As mentioned, following the approval of EU Directive 2019/904 (on single-use plastic), SACMI immediately began developing tethered solutions to offer customers. We initially sought to develop solutions that would minimize any impact on our customers’ existing cap manufacturing lines: solutions that would, simultaneously, also minimize the impact of the necessary changes on the bottling lines. Over the months, modifications to the proposed standards saw us make some corrections to strategy, but without drastically altering the basic concepts. We still aim to offer solutions that minimize both impact and investment costs for converters while, at the same time, meeting the needs of the major bottlers. In this context, slitting and folding machines play a key role in the Post Processing division. We’ve already designed and built several solutions that provide for tethered cut timing with respect to the cap itself (e.g. with liquid cartons, the cap must always open the same way and always on the same side to allow proper pouring from the container and, therefore, the best possible consumer experience).