From single machines to turn-key solutions by Kay Barton
Equipment manufacturer Jiangsu Newamstar Packaging Machinery is headquartered in Jiangsu Province, around 130 km north-west of Shanghai. Since the early 2000s the company has evolved from a local filling machine producer to become a world-renowned turnkey supplier that covers the whole packing process chain, from water treatment, blowing and filling up to downstream and logistics. We met Mr Tony Ho, Vice president, and spoke with him about Newamstar’s crucial milestones.
PETplanet: Newamstar has become an internationally recognised all-in-one solutions supplier for liquid processing, packaging and storage systems. The company began in the mid-90s with filling equipment and expanded associated manufacturing and packaging processes over the following years. What were the main strategic steps that led your company to where it stands today? What is the story behind its success?
Tony Ho: Technology innovation has always been regarded as core to competitiveness right from the beginning, from when the company was established. Newamstar started with a single filling machine in the product range. Since 2003, our product portfolio has been extended from that single machine to a complete production range, aligned with market trends. Newamstar aims to be recognised as China’s leading, expert company for beverage packaging machines, providing high quality equipment as well as complete turn-key projects. Since 2006, Newamstar has been active in five key markets: beverage, dairy, alcohol, edible oils and chemical cleaning products. Over time, we have been recognised as a leader in high-end liquid packaging machinery in China. In 2016 we got involved in smart logistics, a new area for us and for much of the market. We developed a full-service solution that integrates production and inventory in our industry. Throughout our existence, we have retained true to the vision that development is driven by innovation and market share is gained by quality. Our focus remains on food and beverage machinery; we are aiming to become the world’s leading integration solution supplier for liquid processing, packaging and storage.
PETplanet: When did Newamstar turn from a domestic to an international equipment supplier? Was there any key event that prompted this development?
Tony Ho: China joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2001 provided a good opportunity for more and more Chinese companies to enter the global market. We closely watched market trends and projected developments from the early stages of WTO membership; our R&D, standards management, market and technology strategies are conducted in line with world developments. Consequently, co-operation developed between Newamstar and global enterprises like Nestlé, Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola, Danone, Otsuka, Wilmar, Mayora, Kraft Heinz, ITO EN, Oishi, Tsingtao and so on. We have grown into a global equipment supplier.
PETplanet: How many Newamstar machines are currently installed and running across the world?
Tony Ho: We have provided more than 2,200 production lines, in more than 80 countries and regions.
PETplanet: Apart from your domestic market, where has Newamstar sold most of its machines?
Tony Ho: The majority of our sales are in Asia and Africa. We have installed production lines in over 80 countries and regions across the world and have set up several technical service centres in other countries, to provide customers with convenient and efficient service and technical support, locally.
PETplanet: Which countries and sectors do you see as offering the greatest potential for growth, and why?
Tony Ho: Growth in the global food and beverage industry will continue, especially in nutritious foods, plant-based beverages and products aimed to improve health, well-being and immune systems. We have gained an abundance of experience in technological development and application, as well as the project planning and management, at home and abroad. We believe that we can provide professional project solutions and technical services for customers in a growing number of countries and regions but we expect that countries in Asia and Africa offer the greatest potential for growth.
PETplanet: Have changing demands over the past 10 years been driven primarily by the manufacturers and bottlers or by changing consumer needs?
Tony Ho: Consumer demand for natural, fresh, healthy and nutritious food and beverage rises with improved living standards and changing lifestyles, which drives requests for new production lines in manufacturing companies, who also focus on safety, automation, integration and flexibility. We are implementing digitalisation, networking and artificial intelligence and can provide complete “smart factory” solutions. These will help to reduce operating costs and improve production efficiency and energy usage. Labour intensity and management costs will also be reduced, helping return on investment (RoI) times to be cut. Food and beverage quality, safety and traceability can be improved and made more reliable through the integration of production, packaging, inventory and logistics, linked with artificial intelligence.
PETplanet: Your portfolio includes combination solutions, which can also be found with many other equipment suppliers today. Are these bloc solutions the way to go, for now and in future, and why?
Tony Ho: Pressure on global resources is intensifying and, at the same time, we are seeing a growing trend towards ‘intelligent manufacturing’. The combination, monobloc offers the advantages of smaller footprint along with lower operating costs, higher stability and efficiency, convenient maintenance, and intelligent management and control. They mean that flexible manufacturing can be made a reality for users.
PETplanet: Which machine models or types are your best-sellers?
Tony Ho: We are responding to market demand with a range of advanced technology and products, including the Combiblock blowing-filling-capping machine for bottled water, edible oils, CSD, hot filling and aseptic product, and our Starbloc blowing-labelling-filling-capping unit. Aseptic PET bottle packaging solutions, intelligent warehouses and smart factory management systems are also in demand from our customers.
PETplanet: Which are your overall top three application areas by machine sales?
Tony Ho: In the field of beverages, bottled water, CSD and non-carbonated drinks are the top three application areas.
PETplanet: Newamstar has been listed on the stock exchange since 2016. What impact has this had on the company?
Tony Ho: Newamstar had an IPO in April 2016. Public listing encouraged us to optimise our management system and build a better brand culture. It means that, worldwide, customers are able to get a understanding of the company, through more channels, which enables us to build the better working relationships.
PETplanet: What is the company’s strategy for future development and what investments are planned?
Tony Ho: We will increase investment in key markets, establish subsidiaries, strengthen exchanges and interactions with local partners, and jointly promote economic development.
PETplanet: Around a year ago you have introduced Starbloc, a very compact all-in-one system. How did it perform since then?
Tony Ho: Starbloc got good feedback from customers and industrial experts. We are confident that it represents the future development path.
PETplanet: Sounds good; how many Starblocs are already in operation, worldwide?
Tony Ho: At present, several sets are on being trialled in customers’ factories. We are very optimistic about its market prospects.
PETplanet: Aseptic filling technology is a significant part of your business. How did that evolve, and in response to what demands?
Tony Ho: Newamstar is a pioneer of PET aseptic cold filling in China. No preservatives are added to drinks that are bottled using PET aseptic filling technology, so taste, colour and nutrition values can be maintained. These drinks, including fruit and vegetable juice, protein, special-purpose, tea, coffee and plant beverages, satisfy consumer demands for tasty and healthy refreshment. Representative products such as Dali Group’s peanut milk and Panpan Group’s raw coconut juice are typical products bottled using aseptic technologies. In 1999, we became the first supplier in China to engage in aseptic technology. Building on our experiences and continuous improvement through six generations of aseptic technology, we initiated, developed and launched our 7th generation aseptic equipment, which features integrated combiblocs and high speed lines. Newamstar offers a complete range of sterilisation, including wet, dry and e-beam technologies.
PETplanet: What do you see as the general PET trends, today and in future?
Tony Ho: PET is still the most widely used beverage package format. Its recyclability is way better than paper, glass and metal. Demand for PET is growing in non-food sector, such as cleaning chemicals and homecare, an area where we developed good relationships with manufacturers.
PETplanet: The Covid-19 pandemic caused the whole world to stop. Whilst China was able to control the virus in a short time, other countries and regions globally haven’t. What does that mean for you as a Chinese supplier with a global customer base?
Tony Ho: We expect that the world economy will emerge from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic gradually. After the pandemic was controlled in China, Newamstar recovered production and operation quickly and was soon able to resume good standards of service for our customers in China and around the world.
PETplanet: Did you encounter issues affecting supply for your products or difficulties in logistics, for example?
Tony Ho: Logistics and transportation were somewhat affected but control of the situation has seen the impact essentially eliminated.
PETplanet: How did the pandemic affect your daily work in your HQ? What arrangements did you implement to ensure safety?
Tony Ho: Our company recovered production and operation quickly and was able to maintain on-time delivery. Our intelligent remote service and online service systems, introduced in 2016, provide customers with remote technical support and assistance. The system helps reduce support waiting time and has improved customer service responsiveness and efficiency. Our technical support centre is accessible online, 24/7, for customers in China and abroad.
PETplanet: How do you deliver after-sales and service on-site, at customers facilities?
Tony Ho: New technologies, such as 5G, big data, industrial internet of things (IIoT), Cloud computing, AI and so on, are deeply integrated with the real economy and facilitate digitalisation, networking and intelligent factories. We have already developed an intelligent service system for customers, which provides remote technical support and assistance. During the pandemic, installation, commissioning and maintenance of several projects outside of China were carried out smoothly through that system.
PETplanet: In many cases customers also need service support in person, on site, in their factories. Do you still face that sort of demand from your customers as well, is it just a small portion or is it not even really necessary anymore, because of your remote and online services?
Tony Ho: Currently, the proportions of on-site and remote service support vary in different regions. In the future, with the upgrading of the service system and improvement of the technical level of the operators, more and more on-site service support will be replaced with remote services. We are already finding that our intelligent remote service system is being relied upon by a growing number of customers.
PETplanet: What do you, as an industry leader, think the situation could develop, now that there are vaccines available?
Tony Ho: It is believed that the pandemic will be further controlled as the availability of vaccines increases. The international business communication environment will be safer and more stable, which will lay the foundation for global economic recovery.
PETplanet: When do you think the world will be ‘back to normal’?
Tony Ho: According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the global roll-out of vaccines are leading to the pandemic being controlled more and more effectively. However, we cannot predict when it will come to an end. We still need to do a good job in pandemic prevention and control, maintaining production, operation and customer service.
PETplanet: What major changes, on both the industry and customer sides, do you expect to see when the pandemic is over?
Tony Ho: Digital transformation and AI are already happening. We expect the food and beverage industry to speed up its deployment of intelligent manufacturing technology and equipment, which will lead to reduced dependence on human personnel while increasing production efficiency, expanding productivity, developing e-commerce and ensuring product safety and quality. The traditional technology and production line will be replaced much faster, because of the pandemic. At the same time, consumers are more aware of food health, safety and traceability.
PETplanet: How fast can the entire beverage and food industry adapt to these change, do you expect?
Tony Ho: We have already found that more and more customers are partnering with us to find safer and more efficient solutions, and to provide consumers natural, fresh, healthy and nutritious products.
PETplanet: Many exhibitions have been cancelled and it is still unclear when this situation can return to normal. Some of them have been or will be hosted digitally instead. What do you think about such formats and do you see effects for Newamstar?
Tony Ho: With the help of 5G, IIoT, AI and other technologies we will attend a variety of exhibitions. We believe that, in the future, we will communicate and interact more and more closely with customers online.
PETplanet: We regularly hear from a lot of our readers and partners that physical events like exhibitions, in-house meetings and so on cannot be replaced by online sessions, as people want to see and feel technology in action and to network live at such occasions. Do you agree with that and do you see digital contents as a good addition or as a replacement?
Tony Ho: Liquid product packaging machinery is a large-scale equipment with high precision and a strong presence. Only by personal experience can we discover beauty and value, and better understand the industry’s technological development. Digital demonstrations can be used as a supplement, in conjunction with the offline display, to present the product in an all-round way.
PETplanet: Agreed. One final question: What can we expect next from Newamstar?
Tony Ho: We will fully embrace Industry 4.0, actively participate in the global market, constantly develop and innovate technologically and stay close to customers, to provide quality service. We will focus on new aseptic technology, multifunctional integrated equipment and the digital factory, and pay even more attention to continuously improve our ability to help customers build the ideal factory.
PETplanet: Thank you, Mr Ho.