In our interview, David González, Business Director of Novapet, reveals how reliable continuity still exists even when everything is upside down and why the summer of the pandemic year 2020 was the right moment for implementing strategic plans up to 2030.
PETplanet: Mr González, how Novapet coped with the past year?
González: It’s been quite a challenging year, indeed. No need to comment on the depth and the rapidity of the changes and disruptions we all had to face in our markets and sectors of activity because of the pandemic. From the basic supplies of our raw materials, to the end point of our marketing activities, almost everything had to be reinvented from one day to the next, while ensuring, at the same time, the normal continuity of our production, technical assistance and deliveries. We cannot forget that from the very first day of our Spanish lockdown, our company was considered “strategic”. I can now say that this situation has demanded an important extra effort from our team in terms of concentration, dedication and personal responsibility. Luckily, Novapet had previously paid special attention to our Business Contingency Plans in all our divisions, you know, the kind of provisions you make in ordinary times when you don’t even think this might be ever used. It has been used! And now we can say that thanks to these plans, Novapet has maintained its activity at full capacity during all these difficult months, and we have even been able to fulfil an extraordinarily high demand in our three markets: PET resins, PET preforms and bottles.
PETplanet: Spain imposed strict contact restrictions early on. How did the customer support succeed at a distance?
González: Mostly via virtual tools. But our technical assistance team has kept travelling around when and wherever a customer really needed them. And this has been the case even in the hardest moments of the lockdown. Obviously, we have adopted the strictest safety protocols for these travels, but I repeat: we have always been very aware of our responsibilities as a strategic industry. The other day, out of curiosity, I checked the number of kilometres covered by our technicians during the pandemic. And I can assure you, it’s quite an impressive number.
PETplanet: Were your logistics influenced by the lockdown?
González: Not that much. All the transportation sector was considered strategic as well, and I personally think society should recognise the very special effort this sector has deployed to keep all our industries and the shelves of our supermarkets fully supplied. Of course, we have had some minor disturbances affecting basically transportation by road, but with a negligible effect on sea, rail supplies and freight transport.
PETplanet: Digitalisation is one of the buzzwords associated with the pandemic. In our industry, too, the pressure is growing, for example to build digital trading platforms for commodities or to ensure better networking. You have already mentioned digital tools to keep in touch with your customers. Besides this, how are you positioned digitally, or how urgent are such developments on your agenda?
González: My personal vision is that, from both ends of the value chain, the PET or the PET packaging market, were already highly “digitalised” in virtually all the operations (supply, planning, production, logistics, technical assistance, etc.). This is, no doubt, our case as a company. Obviously, this trend is becoming more and more intense, and you cannot stop benchmarking and updating your tools.
PETplanet: Have you also taken advantage of offers such as digital trade fairs and congresses?
González: Yes, certainly, we have attended several congresses and conferences in their virtual editions. We think it is always important to keep updated on what is going on in our sector. Most especially during these uncertain times.
PETplanet: Did you benefit from the fact that the pandemic has shown plastics in a good light, and helped dispel negative criticisms of the sector?
González: No doubt! From the first moment, plastics in general, and PET in a very particular way, were widely identified as a basic means of fighting the pandemic and its effects on our lives. From the most visible medical, sanitary and protection equipment, to the omnipresent bottles of handwashes, or other hygienic and food articles, plastic has shown in the clearest possible way that it is an irreplaceable material to provide safety, cleanliness, lightness and ease of use. Let me add that the plastic industry has also proven its amazing capacity for response and adaptation to a world in disruption, because of its technological flexibility, training in fast decision-making, and the robustness of the value chain.
PETplanet: It is often said that the pandemic has acted as a driving force, accelerating developments that would have happened sooner or later anyway. If this is the case, what changes have been implemented in your company that you expect to last? And are there also any programmes that you had to abandon, or cuts that you were forced to make?
González: This last summer, once the first impacts of the sanitary crisis were more or less under control, we started a strategic reflection on the moves the markets and society were expecting from us to make in the coming years. We were helped in this process by the political and public debate on the priorities for the future, and obviously by a long series of projects at different levels of maturity which were already on their way. And we wrapped it all up in a single Strategic Plan for the company until 2030. The basic theme of this Plan is to create and to promote throughout the action of different divisions of the company a real and concrete circular economy for PET, which is, we believe, a wonderful material. For doing so, the Plan organises Novapet into three different divisions at the service of a unique strategic vision: Novapet resins and concentrates; Novapet packaging; and REnovaPET.
PETplanet: With REnovaPET you are announcing a new subsidiary for recycled PET in addition to your virgin PET resins. Can you tell us more about this?
González: REnovaPET has assumed and undertaken the fascinating mission to create real circular economy conditions for PET in the coming years. And this will be achieved not only because of the transformation of our industrial assets to produce PET with collected material (we expect to produce 120,000 t in 2024), but because of our involvement as a company in the setting up of collection systems complementary to the existing integrated schemes. The installation of the first equipment to produce 15,000 t of rPET will be done within this year and we expect to have it in operation in Q1 2022. We strongly believe in PET as a great material for the future. But “future” for this material means social and individual responsibility, adequate practices along the length of the chain, and the promotion of the right culture for it all.
PETplanet: Mr González, during your Open House in 2016 you told me about your observations that your customers are increasingly outsourcing the injection moulding process but order the preforms from you instead. Your Barbastro plant was refitted from seven to eleven injection moulding machines by then in a record time. Now you have just announced that you are expanding the preform area even more. Can you briefly outline the developments for us?
González: Our injection plant in Barbastro, close to the central Pyrenees, is equipped with eleven lines providing a total yearly output of two billion preforms. The new investments we have already announced involve new contracts signed with customers in France and northern Spain. These investments will lead to fourteen lines operating in Barbastro at the end of this year for a total output of 2,5 billion pieces a year. Moreover, nowadays Novapet Packaging is looking for locations for a new injection plant to be built in the South of Spain and with the plan to have it in operation at the end of 2022. We consider the installation of 4-5 injection lines in this second plant, for a total production of around 700 million preforms a year.
PETplanet: Back in 2016, you also defined the dairy market as a major growth market for PET. How has this developed for you?
González: Novapet has always considered the dairy market as one of the most important growing opportunities for PET as material. I do not think I need to insist on the convenience, functionality and shelf appealing virtues of PET compared with other traditional dairy packages. And these growing opportunities do not come exclusively from the plain clear bottles already widely used for fresh dairy products distributed under refrigerated conditions, but more importantly from the white bottles suitable for long shelf life dairies (ESL and UHT). Novapet was one of the very first companies dealing in this sector, and has today a global presence in it throughout the licence agreement upon our technology signed with Colormatrix (today Avient) four years ago. Today, our special PET technology for dairies is sold, under Avient’s brand Lactra SX, in four continents and is supporting the substantial growth of this market.
PETplanet: Thank you very much!
Novapet restructures its business divisions
Novapet, a Samca Group company, has undertaken a restructuring of its internal divisions which went into effect in January 2021. It is derived from the growth recorded in recent years in the company’s activities related to the production of containers, and from the approval of the company’s new Strategic Plan to the year 2030. Novapet will continue applying its strategy of progressive downstream integration of its activities in the PET market, with growth in the injection of preforms and in the design and production of finished PET containers. In the upcoming years a strong investment plan will serve this strategic line dedicated to:
- Reinforcing the production capacities of preforms in the plant in Barbastro, that is envisaged to pass the 2,500 million units in 2021.
- Consolidating the presence of the company in new functional markets.
- Creating a second injection plant in the south of the Peninsula.
- Making its subsidiary Farmaplás a leader in the market of finished containers of PET and polyolefins.
To accomplish this, Novapet will concentrate all these activities in a new division with the business name Novapet Envase (Noven), which will be organised in two different branches of operations: Noven Preforms (for PET preforms as well as the technical, logistical and financial services associated with them) and Noven Farmaplás (including all the activities of the current Farmaplás).
Secondly, Novapet has recently incorporated a new subsidiary, REnovaPET, which will concentrate all the assets and activities related to the production of rPET. In this regard, the company has already approved a first investments that will come on stream throughout 2021 to offer to the market, starting in 2022, 15,000 t/a of rPET.
The company will continue the marketing strategy under the Novapet umbrella of virgin PET resines and concentrates, of the commodity resins and the wide range of speciality resins for sectors increasingly different from the traditional ones.
Visit Novapet Envase