Helmut Huber: The Indian film industry is striving for future developments - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

With a booming economy, availability of talented engineers and potential for growth, India has always been one of the important markets for the Bruckner Group companies, Helmut Huber, managing director/CSO, Bruckner Maschinenbau, explains

29 Jan 2023 | By Noel D'Cunha

PrintWeek (PW): 2022 is behind us. What does your 2022 report card say?
Helmut Huber (HH):
With a special view to India, whereas the country traditionally has a high demand for oriented polyester (BOPET) packaging film and thus for appropriate stretching technology, last year showed a clear trend towards BOPP film applications (oriented polypropylene). And Bruckner’s hybrid plant concepts for the production of BOPP as well as BOPE films are a success. Several lines were sold in 2022.

We expect demand in this field to rise worldwide and steadily in the coming years. And recently, there has been a slow but sure demand in India for lines to manufacture specialty films, especially for the rapidly growing eMobility sector. Two examples: ultra-thin films for highperformance capacitors and battery separator films for lithium-ion batteries.

PW: The years 2020 to 2022 have been volatile. How has it been for you, expansion or status quo?
In the years 2020, 2021, 2022, the market for packaging films has really exploded worldwide — and, as a result, the demand for film stretching lines from Bruckner Maschinenbau has increased significantly. One reason for the development is that topics such as hygiene and food safety have become much more important in the packaging sector worldwide. In addition, food retailing and mail order have recorded international growth.

In 2020, Bruckner Maschinenbau’s turnover in complete lines and equipment for the plastics and film industry was around Euros 400-million, in 2021 already around Euros 500-million. A record turnover of more than Euros 800 million is expected for 2022, due to the simultaneously high demand for packaging and technical films.

PW: The K in Dusseldorf and Labelexpo in India concluded on a high note. Three important exhibitions are lined up in 2023 and 2024, Labelexpo Europe in Brussels plus Interpack/Drupa in Dusseldorf. What should we expect from you at these shows?
The K show has demonstrated how great the need for personal meetings and face-to-face communication is — on our side but also with the customers. Our stand was exceptionally well attended, and we were particularly pleased with the many Indian customers; it was overwhelming to welcome them again in person.

In 2023, our trade fair focus will be on our main markets, with Plastindia and Chinaplas within the first four months. There we will present technical innovations for the growing technical film markets but also for the continuous demand for highly efficient packaging film production lines. And we also expect discussions about the future of plastic films — a sustainable film production.

PW: The structural design of packaging, which embraces a pack’s shape, texture, materials and product delivery capability, has mostly stayed the same. How should the industry approach structural packaging innovation?
The preservation of nature by using resources and products responsibly is one of the major trends within our industry and markets. For example, we are developing packaging films that are becoming thinner and thinner on the one hand, but retain their protective function on the other. In this way, raw materials can be saved and the valuable commodity food can still be protected as long and as well as possible.

Another focus is on mono-material films for a circular economy. Together with various partners, Bruckner has developed mono-material packaging solutions to close the life cycle of plastic packaging and for best recycling raw material quality in new products. And this research and development is ever ongoing. Besides the state-ofthe-art materials, BOPP and BOPET, a new opportunity is opening up with BOPE.

As the demand for innovative BOPE films is only now starting to develop, Bruckner’s unique hybrid lines allow to react swiftly and flexible to market trends by also producing BOPP specialties such as UHB films and coated films alongside conventional packaging film. The hybrid concept is very well received, especially by Asian film producers.

PW: The Government of India has set a vision of a USD 5-trillion economy. In your view, what are the opportunities for the print and packaging industry, and your organisation, in India?
In the field of flexible packaging, India has always been on a high-quality level, with future-proof investments and equipment. Indian film producers traditionally have a good feel for technology trends and in recent years are also heavily investing in Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Americas. In addition, India is one of the rare countries where the availability of skilled workforce will not become a problem.

With their large number of talented engineers, the Indian film industry is striving for future film developments. Clear sign for this: The R&D teams at the Bruckner headquarters are working closely with Indian packaging, film and resin producers on new film types.

PW: As and when the present USD 3.1-trillion economy grows to a USD 5-trillion economy, the Indian printing industry, particularly the packaging industry, will see substantial growth. One number says, the packaging consumption in India has increased 200% in the past decade, rising from 4.3-kg per person per annum (pppa) to 8.6-kg pppa as in FY20. How prepared are you to support the print and packaging factories in India?
With booming economy, availability of talented engineers and potential for growth, India has always been one of the important markets for the Bruckner Group companies. The entire group has been serving its customers in Indian subcontinents for over five decades with fast service and absolute proximity to local markets.

Our Indian subsidiary Brueckner Group India is strategically located at Navi Mumbai and operational since 2001. This modern set-up has been constantly expanded. Today, it has a strength of over 100 employees and supports all the group companies. The team extends business development and customer services support for all the packaging solutions provided by the group. Especially for our customers in the biax film area, there is a full-fledged clip and chain refurbishment centre as well as a supply chain and quality assurance set-up for high precision components.

PW: One product in your company portfolio that was a star?
In December, we succeeded in putting a very special film stretching line into production, together with a long-standing Indian customer. It is our first 10.4-m wide, 600-m/min fast BOPET production line with direct film casting and special multigap stretching technology in India and it is also the first one in this country with a brand-new and unique film transportation system.

At a glance

  • Fav most app? The app of the German Alpine Association.
  • Besides your phone and wallet, what are a couple of must-have items you always carry? A laptop or tablet and an SOS emergency card for worldwide travellers.
  • Window or aisle seat? Aisle (for long distance flights). Snack or meal? Meal.
  • Cocktail or diet drink? Cocktail.
  • SUV or luxury? SUV.
  • What’s the current author you are bingeing on? Simon Sinek.
  • One celeb who you met who has impressed you? Not celebs in the traditional sense, but some owners and managers of our customers really impress me.
  • First thing you notice in a biz meeting? Which charisma emanates from which participant.
  • One question you always ask when you are hiring? Why are you applying for a job in Bruckner and what do you imagine the Bruckner spirit to be?
  • What’s the one thing you wish you knew at age 21?How important family and friends really are! But principally my motto is: Think positive and take it as it comes.
  • What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received? Don’t make every problem your own and don’t try to please everyone all the time