Cartons: The laser revolution is supposed to reduce the amount of packaging

MMarketing people have developed a fine set of tools to find out what consumers want inside. The problem with this is that the wishes often don’t go well together.

For packaging, for example, individualization is one of the big trends, the Cologne-based trade research institute IFH found out in a survey last year. Original boxes, small series, high-quality appearance – this is well received by potential buyers of sweets, perfumes or gifts.

Another trend is sustainability. It is important for more than 90 percent of consumers what packaging does with the environment. But the smaller the packaging series, the more difficult it is to precisely produce the required quantities of perhaps a few dozen pieces and to avoid waste. Bringing individualization and environmentally friendly packaging together is difficult.

That is why Amazon often sends goods in packaging that is too large

The oversized packaging has a system. They bring savings to Amazon and Co.

Marco Dembowski and a few of his colleagues try it anyway. With folding boxes, those universal, small and often ingeniously shaped boxes, in which everything from medicines to chocolates to hand mixers can accommodate just about anything below the voluminous corrugated cardboard class.

Dembowski is the chief strategist for the PackEx brand, a company for which a small series in extreme cases consists of exactly one copy. This is more revolutionary than it sounds, because for decades this industry has been focused on large runs of at least a few thousand or ten thousand pieces. Then the small boxes were the most economical. Until PackEx came.

PackEx produces different types of boxes

Source: PackEx GmbH

Founded two years ago by the August Faller Group family company from Worms, as an experimental field for digitalization, and has been on the market for about a year, the company is a prime example of how combining modern technology with an established product can open up completely new possibilities.

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The classic production process for everyday boxes leaves manufacturers with practically no choice but the large series. The cardboard sheets are punched out, whereby a separate punching tool must be created for each individual box shape and size. Handicrafts play a comparatively large role in their manufacture.

The prices for such semi-manual stamping tools can easily reach 1000 euros or more. These and other costs, such as retrofitting the machines, only pay off if they are distributed over large quantities.

In the traditional way of production, runs above 4000 boxes are really economical, says a thumb bearing. In times of individualization, this throws them out of the running for many purposes, especially since the mega quantities entail additional costs, including storage costs or provisions for everyday risks.

Exit only with a fresh start

It is not uncommon for some of the mass-produced packaging to be re-stamped, for example, because labeling regulations change before use. So the boxes may be out of date before there is anything in them.

Dembowski explains that getting out of these constraints is only possible with a fresh start. Only the end product at PackEx is similar to the classic, but the manufacturing process has been completely changed.

The mechanical punch has given way to laser technology. “We have developed unique software solutions and machines worldwide. The entire production process had to be rethought, ”says the chief strategist. Instead of sharp metal edges, bundled light cuts out the contours and creates the grooves in the material that the folding edges dictate. “Laser technology is not rocket science, but it has never been used in this form in the folding box sector until then,” says Dembowski.

“Another niche provider”

The company built the upstream and downstream production steps around the technological core. Customers place orders digitally via app, color management for printing has been simplified, and small batches are shipped in cardboard boxes instead of the usual pallet and truck.

The average circulation per model is currently just 800 pieces and is expected to increase to 1100 soon. “With our current service portfolio, we are still a niche provider,” says Dembowski.

Customers also included large companies looking for a suitable wrapper for prototypes or market tests, but mainly small and medium-sized companies from sectors such as pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, superfood or promotional items – applications for folding boxes because of the otherwise usual large ones No quantities have been considered so far. Under certain circumstances, small editions could be produced within an hour using the digital printing process.

Digital experimental field

According to Dembowski, the Worms parent company has invested around ten million euros in the digital experiment field PackEx. The Federal Ministry for the Environment is funding the business idea with 1.6 million euros because digitization, as a by-product, reduces the environmental impact. According to the company, the use of raw materials can be reduced by up to 87 percent, and so far almost 1400 tons of greenhouse gas emissions have been avoided.

Demboski says that the breakeven point has not yet been reached about a year after the start of production. “We prefer to grow slowly, healthily and sustainably.” With just three dozen employees, PackEx is a dwarf in the folding box industry, which according to the latest figures from its FFI industry association has a production volume of 871,000 tons and an annual turnover of almost 1.9 billion euros (2018) is coming.

Like all sectors of the economy shaken by the Corona crisis, after a recovery the industry should again benefit from the fact that some of the major consumer trends give it tailwind. For nine out of ten consumers, issues such as avoiding plastic waste, recyclability or easy disposal according to the IFH survey are still at the top of the inner checklist when assessing packaging.



Amazon: The crisis is catapulting the company into a new dimension

Es is a truth that retailers will hate: So far, Amazon has only been the Germans’ favorite supplier. Now the corona crisis makes him absolutely indispensable. It is almost as if the US company is moving in a kind of parallel universe compared to the competition.

Apart from supermarkets and drugstore chains, almost all of German retail is currently in a catastrophe mood, only slightly mitigated by the prospect of smaller companies being allowed to reopen under conditions. But operators of specialty shops, boutiques and department stores are often on the brink of panic mode after weeks of closings. The last bad news: the clothing chain Hallhuber from Munich is threatened with insolvency, and applied for a protective shield procedure.

Two times Bezos in the list of the biggest crisis winners

$ 23.6 billion more – the wealth of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has grown so much since the beginning of the year. His ex-wife is also in the top three. In percentage terms, however, a completely different billionaire is ahead.

“The corona crisis hits the stationary fashion trade to the core,” said the associations of textile, shoe and leather goods retailers recently. But digital trade in German provenance is also suffering. Zalando already had to cash in his annual forecast. Across the industry, e-commerce sales fell 20 percent year-on-year, the online retail association BEVH said. Many online retailers suffered massively from the lousy consumer mood and saw sales drop by up to 30 percent, warned trade president Josef Sanktjohanser.

The opposite is the development at Amazon. “With the spread of the corona virus, we are seeing a sharp increase in orders,” the company says on its German website. Only if you take this special development at Amazon into account, can the results of a survey by the Cologne-based trade research institute IFH be reconciled with the decline in sales complained of by industry representatives.

“Purchases via the Internet are becoming increasingly popular in the Corona crisis,” the Cologne-based trade researchers report in a consumer survey between April 12 and 18. 22 percent of consumers surveyed said they had done online shopping that they would normally do physically. Four weeks earlier, only 13 percent had answered in the affirmative.

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So far, about half of the entire German online trade has been via the platform or the US Group’s own cash registers. This share is likely to have increased in spurts again. For the most part, additional demand, as determined by the IFH, is likely to be consumed by Amazon alone, estimates the economist and trade expert Gerrit Heinemann from the Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences. Even before the pandemic, the company has repeatedly shown that it can cope with high growth rates and bottlenecks better than other companies.

But this time it’s not just about volume growth, rather the US group is playing a qualitatively new role. “Even if many don’t like it and retail experts almost don’t dare to say it: Amazon is already systemically important,” says the trade professor. The company has enabled consumers to “buy items beyond the food range that could not be found anywhere else. It’s almost a unique selling point, ”said Heinemann.

Where so much economic power is concentrated, competition keepers come onto the scene. In fact, the EU Commission is investigating possible antitrust violations when dealing with dealers. The Bundeskartellamt had already won relief for outside traders from the online giant last year. “We continue to monitor the company’s behavior very closely,” said Kartellamt President Andreas Mundt WELT. “Triggered by the Corona crisis, we are currently receiving more complaints from dealers.”

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The Bundeskartellamt took this as an opportunity to ask Amazon to comment on the criteria the company uses when it comes to how delivery bottlenecks are dealt with and which deliveries are given priority or subordinate treatment in case of doubt.

The question is crucial, because the corona crisis has created bottlenecks in a number of goods. According to WELT figures available from the Euromonitor market survey, which overlooks the entire online market, 52 percent of all cleaning wipes were “sold out” on April 14, for example. The same was true for 19.8 percent of liquid soaps, for 12.7 percent of universal cleaners and for 11.2 percent of all cat food products.

If traditional retailers, forced by the crisis, want to build an online sales channel in a hurry, there is currently hardly any alternative to Amazon’s marketplace. Ebay places higher system requirements on new participants, the industry says. Zalando focuses on fashion, Otto’s online marketplace is just leaving the launch pad, and at the ongoing dismantling of the parent company is unsettling potential partners.

The high demand also puts Amazon under stress

Meanwhile, the US group has probably never come closer to the claim of founder and CEO Jeff Bezos to be a supplier of everything and everyone in a large flow of goods, as powerful as the Amazon, which – so the company legend wants – at Naming godfather. The pandemic plays into the cards almost everywhere.

But at the same time, the surge of demand even puts Amazon under stress. The epidemic slows down the logistical processes and drives up the costs. In France and Italy, only items classified as “essential” such as health and household goods, baby products or staple foods leave the warehouse. In Germany there may be delays in product groups that are not given priority treatment.

Not everyone is satisfied with employee precautions. In the United States, the group fired at least three workers who had denounced inadequate safeguards in the logistics centers.

In France, the verdict of a court in Nanterre is currently causing difficulties for the group. Union officials wanted to bring a lawsuit that Amazon would have to review the pandemic risks for warehouse workers while only distributing food, hygiene, and medical devices – with success.

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The court ruled that the unions were right and threatened Amazon with fines of more than one million euros per day for violations. That could have serious consequences. Amazon shut down operations in the French warehouses, initially for a few days.

At the same time, the Group repeatedly emphasizes how much it is doing for its employees in the crisis. In France alone, 27,000 liters of hand disinfectant and 1.5 million breathing masks were purchased. In the United States, with its limited testing capacities, a working group was set up with the goal of setting up its own testing laboratory as quickly as possible.

At the same time, Amazon is increasing the number of employees to an unprecedented extent. In March the company hired 100,000 people in America, only to advertise another 75,000 new jobs in April. Most of the jobs have already been taken, the company said.

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kombo corona everyday Philip Davali / Ritzau Scanpix / dpa, Getty Images, Michal Cizek / AFP, ISNA / AFP, REUTERS / Mike Hutchings, Tiziana FABI / AFP

International comparison

In Germany, on the other hand, the structure is limited. Amazon is currently creating 350 new jobs in the logistics system. The group is also looking for around 2,000 employees for new centers in Oelde and Sülzetal. As almost everywhere else in the world, employees should also earn a little more than usual in April: “In order to honor the contribution of shipping employees in Germany and Austria, we plan to pay an additional two euros gross per hour worked by the end of April”, said an Amazon spokesman.

Experts believe that the recent wave of emigration to the Internet is permanent. In the survey conducted by the Cologne trade researchers, 95 percent of those surveyed stated that they were satisfied with the purchase. 71 percent could imagine buying similar items online in the future. Most of this should also end up with the online market leader. Not a good prospect for the traditional traders, who have been hard hit by the crisis.

Sooner or later, members of Amazon’s Prime customer loyalty program will be lost to the rest of the retail anyway, says Heinemann. He is concerned about the current success of the group: “Amazon’s market power rose to a worrying level during the crisis,” he predicted. “It will continue to increase afterwards.”



Coronavirus: This is how Lidl, Aldi, Rewe and Deutsche Bank react

Dhe effects of the corona virus are increasingly becoming a threat to the German economy, which consumers will also feel. With rapidly increasing diseases in Italy including sealed off communities, especially in Lombardy south of Milan, the plague has moved closer to Germany with larger numbers of cases.

With 260 infected people and seven deaths, Italy is the world’s third largest disease center after China and South Korea. Some companies, such as Allianz, Siemens or Deutsche Bank, are now copying their precautions for China to the crisis regions in Italy.

When asked by the companies, it was said that the situation around the Covid 19 virus, as the disease is now officially called, was being closely monitored and the recommendations of the World Health Organization followed.

For example, Allianz, Deutsche Bank and other companies have imposed travel restrictions on mainland China and Hong Kong, which are now being extended to affected parts of Italy. Employees are asked to “postpone all trips that are not absolutely necessary,” said a spokesman for the Frankfurt bank.

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Siemens reacts similarly. If possible, all trips to China and now also in Italy’s crisis regions should be canceled. On a case-by-case basis, it should be discussed with the supervisor whether those returning from China or Italy “should use home offices better first,” said a spokesman.

The Italian major bank Unicredit-Group, to which the German HVB also belongs, has also issued a travel ban in crisis regions. In some branches in Italy, unspecified “prevention sets” were distributed and common rooms in Milan were closed.

The alliance says that travel restrictions for China have now been introduced for northern Italy and South Korea. Specifically, this means a travel ban to South Korea and to and from the affected municipalities in Lombardy and Veneto as well as a largely waiver of non-essential Northern Italy trips.

Daimler, Voith and IBM co-wrote the “Manual for Pandemic Planning”

Siemens explains that preparations are also underway for a pandemic. Details would not be published publicly. The Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief (BBK) published a “Handbook for Pandemic Planning” ten years ago and has updated it ever since. Experts from Daimler, Voith or IBM contributed to its creation. There are numerous checklists with items such as “Define core functions of the company” or “Obtain protective equipment”. Which companies have taken specific pandemic preparedness remains open.

What is certain, however, is that more and more economic sectors are preparing for cuts. One example is the food trade. So Aldi does not rule out delivery bottlenecks. “For some items, it is already foreseeable that the delivery quantity will decrease at the start of sales and that these items could be sold out more quickly if demand is high,” said a spokeswoman for Aldi Süd.

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A worker in protective suit speaks on a radio in front of a screen for infrared temperature measurement in the lobby of the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Photo: AP / dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++ |

Corona fear on the stock exchange

However, it is not yet certain which products it could actually be. “We are in close contact with our suppliers and check the current state of affairs for each individual article,” it said. Competitor Lidl claims to have developed processes for various scenarios in all countries in which the company is represented, which ensure the operational process in warehouses and branches under special circumstances.

According to the company, this could include the delivery of branches from different distribution warehouses or the rescheduling of logistics routes. The supermarket chain Rewe has given the all-clear for its network. There is currently no need for adjustments to the food range. “The supply of goods is guaranteed,” said a spokeswoman. But watch the situation carefully.

DER Touristik offers Milan travelers free rebooking

Rewe’s travel subsidiary DER Touristik, one of the largest providers in Germany, also reacts to the situation in Italy. DER Milan travelers are offering free rebookings and cancellations until February 28th for goodwill reasons, since sights in the city have been closed as a precaution and there could be longer waiting times at Milan Airport. “Otherwise, all regions of Italy are easy to travel,” said the tourism subsidiary of Rewe. There are no restrictions except in Milan.

According to Lidl, business trips to and from Italy have been suspended “until further notice”. Last Friday, a warehouse and two branches in the Lombardy region south of Milan were closed as part of the quarantine measures by the Italian government.

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Economic consequences of the corona virus

Lidl emphasized that this was an official preventive measure in the context of security and was not related to the possible cause of the spread of the corona virus in the region. “In close coordination with the authorities, a branch has temporarily resumed operations to ensure the food supply for the Italian population in the affected areas,” added the spokeswoman.

BDI: Several industries anticipate delivery bottlenecks

By networking the economy across national borders, the supply chains with China and now Italy can also stall. It is often procurement and sales markets. Crisis planning does not only affect companies.

As Bernd Salzberger from the Regensburg University Hospital, chairman of the German Society for Infectious Diseases, said on request, this also applies to patient care. “Every hospital has a plan in its pocket, we have enough beds and well-trained doctors,” said the expert. However, Germany could at some point have a problem with the supply of medical devices and medicines, since a large part of them are manufactured in China.

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A similar warning comes from the Federation of German Industries: “In the coming weeks, several industrial sectors in Germany are expecting bottlenecks in deliveries from the Far East, including electronics, automobiles, pharmaceuticals and paper.” The warning about cuts in Italy- Business fail.



Real: Metro AG sells supermarket chain to Russian investors

Dhe business is tough at Real. In the end, the hypermarket chain even became a shop keeper itself. It took almost a year and a half for the mother company Metro to find a buyer for the crisis company. Now the time has finally come: “The investment company SCP Group has reached an agreement with Metro AG to take over 100 percent of Real,” said both companies.

But the champagne should stay in the fridge, at Metro and also at Real. The parent company will only receive 300 million euros from the sale, 200 million less than expected just a few weeks ago.

In order to get rid of Real, CEO Olaf Koch apparently had to make significant concessions. And Real has no reason to cheer. The chain with 276 branches and around 34,000 employees is now about to be broken up.

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In a first step, SCP takes over the company including all branches, an online marketplace and the Real subsidiaries. “All employees will be taken over with their current contracts at the previous conditions,” the buyer assures.

Nevertheless, the employees fear for their jobs, as they made clear just a few days ago with protests in front of the Metro general assembly. For good reason. It is foreseeable that several thousand jobs will be lost. Around 30 Real branches alone will probably have to close, said SCP. Each of them has an average of more than a hundred employees. In addition, there are job cuts in the Düsseldorf branch.

After a year and a half of uncertainty, the unrest in the workforce is great, despite all the assurances from Metro and SCP that the interests of the employees are taken into account as far as possible.

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“The aim is that the majority of the employees will either continue to work within the framework of their respective collective agreements or that the employees will be taken over by potential new operators in the event of a relocation of business,” says a statement. If the job is cut, affected employees receive “a fixed severance payment”.

The trade union Ver.di spoke of a “bitter day for the real workers”. Federal board member Stefanie Benefberger attacked Metro frontally.

“Metro management, headed by Olaf Koch, can be celebrated for the destruction of probably more than 10,000 jobs, and the Federal Ministry of Economics is standing by to watch thousands of people be driven into unemployment and working conditions in the retail sector polished,” she said.

Source: WORLD infographic

It was a return carriage based on the Metro boss’ latest statements. Koch had accused the union of stubbornly refusing to grant wage concessions to Real’s decline.

However, the SCP deal is not yet completely secure. The European Commission’s Directorate General for Competition has yet to approve it. The supervisory board of the Moscow SCP parent company, Sistema PJSFC, has not yet approved the real purchase.

Evtuschenkow runs his group like a family business

However, Sistema announced in the Russian capital that it is planning to provide funding for the takeover in Germany of “up to EUR 263 million”. “It is expected that the transaction can be completed in the first half of 2020,” said Sistema in a mandatory report.

Sistema is a conglomerate with a turnover of the equivalent of 11.2 billion euros (2018) and extensive activities in telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, forestry, healthcare and other sectors. The company is listed on the stock exchange, but 59 percent of the shares are held by Vladimir Yevtushenkov.

The 71-year-old founded the company in 1993 and is now considered one of the richest Russians with assets valued at $ 2.3 billion by Forbes. Evtuschenkow had tried several times in vain to gain a foothold as an investor in Germany, for example in 2006 when he joined Deutsche Telekom.

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When the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, the trained chemist was apparently in the right place at the right time – first as head of the Moscow City Committee for Science, then responsible for the privatization of state companies in the Russian capital.

Evtuschenkow closely engages his family in business activities. His wife Natalia, sister-in-law of the former Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov, is a member of the supervisory board of the SCP sister company East West United Bank.

And daughter Tatjana has a leading job at the investment company Redline Capital. All of these companies belong to Sistema and are based in Luxembourg. Tatjana’s 41-year-old brother Felix, in turn, chairs the SCP Board of Directors. He is said to have initiated the real deal significantly.

The takeover of Real by SCP is only the first chapter in the exploitation of one of the once largest trading companies in Germany. The second section will lead to a complete disassembly of the chain. For this, SCP has teamed up with the real estate developer x + Bricks, as a “strategic partner”, as they say.

Associated with competitor Kaufland

Metro had previously negotiated with x + Bricks, specializing in retail properties in the food segment. However, Koch feared competition law problems, as he revealed, because x + Bricks is considered to be connected to real competitors Kaufland.

Kaufland, like the discounter Lidl, belongs to the Schwarz group and is therefore, alongside Edeka, Rewe and Aldi, one of the four major food retailers that the Bundeskartellamt has a close eye on. Because of a hundred euros spent on food in Germany, 85 euros already end up in the coffers of the four big companies.

With Real’s dismantling, the escalation will worsen. After all, the chain still generated 6.7 billion euros in the past financial year, albeit at a loss. Kaufland still wants to secure around 100 real locations.

Real workers fear for their jobs

34,000 employees of the Real supermarket chain fear losing their jobs. The parent company Metro wants to sell Real. Hundreds of them demonstrated before the Metro general meeting in Düsseldorf.

Source: WELT / Gerrit Seebald

Personnel also shows how close the connection to the buyer is: Former Kaufland boss Patrick Kaudewitz is to become chairman of the board of SCP Retail Investments, as the company also announced on Tuesday. He would “bring his many years of experience in retail to the development of individual concepts for the Real locations”.

Other competitors are also interested in branch packages. The Cartel Office had already checked Edeka’s acquisition of 87 houses in 2019, and Tegut, Rewe and others are also said to be interested in locations.

Should Brussels wave through the purchase of the entire company Real by SCP, the German antitrust authority would have to check in a second step whether the takeover of parts of the branch network could lead to excessive market power at regional level. “It is likely that we will examine this,” said a spokesman for the Federal Cartel Office. However, there are no concrete registrations yet.

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Brand new in waste incineration

Even if Real is filleted – the name is retained. At least for now. 50 stores were to continue operating under the old name for two years, SCP announced. These are the kind of houses where the Cartel Office’s resistance to one of the big four can be foreseen.

But in the end it’s just a kind of gallows period. SCP assures that it will “check all options”. However, if there is no profit in sight and no buyer can be found, “a closure of the respective location is not excluded.”

This app wants to make long lines in the supermarket forget

Christoph Schönfelder developed the “KOALA” app – and wants to use it to ensure that long lines of buyers are a thing of the past. The test phase in the first supermarket has already started.

Source: WELT / Peter Haentjes