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Specialising in the development and manufacture of packaging machines for small pieced confectionery items, Theegarten-Pactec has recently reached a significant company milestone by unveiling its brand new factory. Simon Rowley visited the new facility in Dresden, Germany, to find out more.
A mid-sized, family-owned company, Theegarten-Pactec is renowned for the development and manufacture of packaging machines for small pieced confectionery items. The diversity of over 20 packaging styles is combined with a wide performance range, covering low speed (up to 500 products a minute) and medium speed systems (up to 1,000 products a minute), as well as continuous motion high-performance machines in the speed range above 1,000 products a minute. In addition to single machines, the company also offers engineering, design and supply of complete packaging lines as a turnkey partner. Its machinery is expert at wrapping items such as hard sugar boiled candies, toffees, chewing gum, chocolate products and baked goods – along with other food and even non-food products. With 400 employees and an annual turnover of €45-50 million, the company announced back in November 2013 that it was to expand its sole manufacturing facility in Dresden, Germany. Following significant investment, the first phase of the expansion is now complete, with the new headquarters now fully operational.
The decision to move
When the construction project was announced in late 2013, the company outlined many reasons as to why it had opted for the new 50,000m2 site. “We have outgrown our existing premises”, noted President & CEO Markus Rustler at the time, adding that, “The additional floor space is a fundamental resource in terms of our long-term growth objectives.“ The new facility adds floor space not only for production facilities (including the manufacturing and assembly areas), but it also greatly increases the quantity of office space – which was becoming a critical issue at the former location. So not only does the new facility increase space and offer a more modern approach, it also reflects development of the company as a whole. In 2007, Theegarten employed approximately 260 staff, but today, the workforce has swelled to 400 – which really does underscore the President’s observation that the company had outgrown its home. Despite serving Theegarten well for the last 20 years, working conditions at the former facility could also prove problematic. For instance, temperatures were often too hot in the summer, and too cool in the winter – and it also incurred lots of maintenance costs. These issues were of paramount importance and factored in to the construction of the new building, with the new manufacturing floor now built on stones: an experimental move with strong environmental credentials that has the ability to naturally lower temperatures in the summer and warm things up in the winter. With all the above factors taken into account, the project got underway, and to date, investment in the project has amounted to some €16 million – €5 million of which has been spent on new machinery – and this figure is expected to rise to a total of €30 million when later phases of the project have been finalised. This sum represents the largest ever investment in the history of the packaging machinery manufacturer. Shortly after revealing its plans, demolition of the new plot, which is adjacent to the former premises and was acquired from the city of Dresden, commenced in March 2014. Subdivided into several construction phases, one of the main challenges was to keep the old factory up-and-running whilst the new one was being built, but the project was carefully orchestrated to avoid any major disturbances with the usual day-to-day business activities – making the transition from old to new virtually seamless. “Thanks to careful planning, this mammoth project has so far not impacted on our daily operations, the design and manufacture of packaging systems,” notes Rustler. “The three pillars of the construction project – time, cost and quality – are in line with expectations due to outstanding planning by our partner Vollack and the execution of these plans by the individual trades.”
Phasing it in
The entire project is being implemented in three construction phases and will also involve the phased demolition of existing buildings. During the first construction phase, which is now complete, the office building and the first part of the assembly/ manufacturing building were constructed. Following this will be the demolition of the old building and the construction of the second half of the manufacturing and assembly facilities, with both expected to be complete by mid-2017. The new construction consists of an office building with production and warehouse areas, staff amenities and technology facilities as well as a car park with 170 parking spaces. The offices provide space for various usages such as research and development, design, customer service and sales, whilst an employee canteen with a terrace is also located in the interior courtyard. Mechanical production and varnishing is accommodated in the manufacturing building, and a number of production-related offices with a gallery are situated adjacent to the manufacturing building. An assembly building and a warehouse are also under construction. A total of 5,500m2 of office space has been built with a high-spec building envelope, which is to be certified in accordance with the KfW Development Bank’s energy efficiency standard. The office building is a steel concrete construction in a cast-in-place concrete structure with beam-less flat slab ceilings, whilst the facade is a curtain wall consisting of various materials such as fibre cement panels, metal panels and expanded metal. Much like the production areas, the offices too have a ventilation and air-conditioning system. Whilst great care and attention has been paid to the production areas, even the finer details – such as the naming of its conference rooms after different types of confectionery (such as ‘Hard Candy’, ‘Bubblegum’, or ‘Krówki, a Polish confectionery type) – have been accounted for.
The grand opening
After months of work and planning, Theegarten’s brand new home was officially unveiled during an opening ceremony on July 3, 2015. At the event, attended by hundreds of the company’s customers from across the globe, a number of key individuals involved in the project were on hand to address the many visitors. First to speak was Markus Rustler, who commented: “For Theegarten- Pactec, the new building is the foundation needed to continue building high-tech machines for our customers and secure long-term growth. We are delighted that the first construction phase is now complete, thus setting another milestone in the company’s history, which goes back over 80 years.” He continued, “We are proud to have completed the first stage of our construction, but still a lot more remains to be done. The last 16 months were hard work, and we had to make difficult decisions relating to the building, but everyone was involved in the process and we’re delighted with the result”. He also thanked Vollack Group, the construction workers for the project, noting that “The best planners are only as good as the construction workers themselves. Thanks to them for putting our ideas into solid concrete”. Also present – in addition to representatives from Vollack – was Dirk Hilbert, First Mayor of Dresden. In his speech, he thanked Theegarten for staying in the city, highlighting the fact that they have not only maintained jobs, but also helped to create new ones; with 50 new positions already created.
Keeping it productive
The production area consists of an assembly building alongside a manufacturing building, and both rooms are fitted with cranes and hoisting equipment throughout, covering a total area of 15,500m2. They are also equipped with radiant ceiling panels for district heating, with ventilation systems also installed, and the new buildings provide space for 400 workstations. The new assembly buildings are designed to create better assembly conditions for complex lines and, in particular, to facilitate start-up operations in Dresden itself so that seamless project workflows are guaranteed for Theegarten-Pactec and its customers. With sales agencies in more than 100 countries, along with an export share that averages 90 percent, it comes as no surprise that Theegarten works on projects for customers from all ends of the globe, a concept that was in full evidence during my visit. Each year, the company manufactures around 120 packaging systems consisting of machines and feeding components.
Whilst a large portion of Theegarten’s new machinery is built in the manufacturing area, the assembly room is increasingly being used for the refurbishment of customer machinery. Refurbishment is often chosen as the best way forward for confectionery manufacturers as it can be much cheaper than purchasing brand new machinery, and in these challenging financial times, customers cannot always afford such equipment. During my visit, Theegarten was refurbishing an EK1 wrapping machine (year of construction 1987) for a confectioner in Mexico – which wanted a ‘bendy’ product via a rotary feed disc – and it was also working on a flow wrapping machine project for a customer in Nigeria, highlighting the global scale of the company’s customer base. Double twist and top twist wrapping machines are also worked on here, and a new flow wrapping machine for chewing gum was also being built during my visit. Theegarten commission parts for final assembly, and once a customer’s assembly is completed, a space is cleared, making way for the next development. The company can also troubleshoot here, which offers a significant advantage as it has direct access to equipment that can build any replacement parts needed to fix machinery. Not only does this make life easier for Theegarten, but it is also beneficial for the customer too, as they can be assured that their equipment can be fixed in one location, in the shortest possible timeframe. In addition to the customer-specific refurbishment work, Theegarten also undertakes its own general research in the assembly centre, as it strives to uncover new, innovative ways of production. During my visit, the company was testing one of its CWM2 modular wrapping machines to find out parameters such as speed range, and the optimum size of product being produced. Specifically, the company is testing a product that isn’t in the size range of the machine for an Italian customer, which is manufacturing a product with dimensions of 43mm x 43mm – slightly just out of the machine’s standard 38mm x 38mm size range. However, Theegarten operatives have tweaked the machine to account for this slightly larger size, and have thus succeeded in their mission.
Whilst Theegarten keeps confectionery as its main focus, the company also works with other types of applications, including the packaging of both other food and non-food products. For example, the technology behind its wrapping machine is also being used for soup cubes – producing individual flow wrapped items – and this philosophy can be applied to practically any industry. For instance, hard-boiled sweet wrapping is essentially the same as that required to wrap dishwasher cubes, so Theegarten can solve problems in many industries. The machine, which was fully operational during my visit, wraps 1,500 cubes per minute – a phenomenal rate!
Looking to the future
With phase one complete, Theegarten will now turn its attentions to phases two and three, which involved the former site being incorporated into the new facility. Later this month, the old factory will be taken down; an expansion project that is set for completion by 2017. As Markus Rustler pointed out back in 2013: “Ultimately, our aim is to supply the best machines and lines for our customers in line with their requirements over the long-term”. Having seen first-hand just how impressive the new facilities are, it appears as though the company is on course to deliver in every conceivable aspect.