Premium Beauty News - What were the main reasons that drove you to have the Qualipac group move in these three directions?
Pierre Hémar - Simply enough, industrial logic confronted to the logic of changing customer markets. It was obvious that to remain among the front runners of preferred suppliers to global key players in the beauty industry, we had to be also operating on the main continents where they were going to grow. It was also necessary to offer them everything they required in terms of "full service", which we were fortunately able to offer in addition to our industrial know-how in plastics processing, with our expertise in all areas of packaging, accessories, thanks also to our privileged ties with world’s top glassmaker: Pochet.
Premium Beauty News - A few strings were missing to your bow, right?
Pierre Hémar - Quite true! Industrially speaking, we were not involved in the manufacture of high-end parts made of zamac even though we had been already relying on Asian subcontractors for twenty years. That is why we decided to build, from scratch, this new plant in China to process this material. We were not operating in South America, particularly Brazil, which remains and will remain one of the most dynamic markets in the Beauty universe. We took over Ipel, with a factory which also allows us to develop a real expertise both in the make-up area and for a "high-end" lipstick mechanism. Not to mention that the Brazilian plant will also inherit from all of Qualipac’s know-how in terms of finishing and assembling techniques, thus developing its offer.
May I also add that our presence in China both in plastic and zamac processing could also lead in the coming months to aluminum processing.
Premium Beauty News - A technical and geographical reorganization that didn’t stop you from accelerating the upgrading of your French factories?
Pierre Hémar - We don’t have the choice! No one in the European industry has the choice! Durability of production tools in Europe could only be and can only be achieved through automation and innovation. That’s what we have been working on and will continue to work on. Latest example to date, the complete automation at Auriplast, thanks to robots, of the assembling on the frames of parts meant to be galvanized. And we will proceed the same way with the disassembling post, once the parts are treated. A "small" operation which will still cost nearly 5 million Euros!
Not to mention significant investments achieved for the setting up of specific assembly lines, such as the one which allowed us to design the latest Hugo Boss for which we provide, by the way, a truly comprehensive service including taking delivery of bottles, automatic assembling of the base and repackaging of the whole for shipment, offering a new service to the customer.
But there is also innovation. Which is constantly driving us at all levels of responsibility. We are the only ones currently able to offer a "genuine silver" galvanizing, the aspect of which will not alter with time. Our engineers have also managed to block metal oxidation using passivation.
I can also tell you about our new dispensing jar. 2010 should not disappoint you.
Premium Beauty News - Precisely, let’s talk about this year! What are your expectations?
Pierre Hémar - Circumspect! But we can only be optimistic after a particularly trying previous year where everything combined to weaken our profession. Declining volumes, falling prices ... everything was on our way. We ended the year at - 15%!
At the start of 2010, volumes are back a little bit. On the contrary we are still experiencing price levels totally incompatible with the health of our businesses. This will have to change! Of course, this situation forced us to further improve our productivity (which has been the case!) and the flexibility of our production units, but you cannot ask us to have top technology and invest while our margins are collapsing.