AROL: leader for capping in constant growth even on new markets
In its historic headquarter in Canelli the AROL Group realizes technology and solutions for capping, combining proper product preservation, food safety and customer satisfaction, including the most important beverage brands in the world.
With Federico Zannier, sales director of AROL Group , we found out more about the vision and outlooks of the company, a world leader in its sector.
"The group is made up of four companies: AROL itself, UNIMAC-GHERRI based in Montecchio Emilia (RE), MACA ENGINEERING in Pordenone, Tirelli in Marmirolo (MN), which has recently incorporated another company: KTF ENGINEERING, also in Marmirolo. In addition to the role of sales director of the group, I also hold the position of DG of UNIMAC-GHERRI and another position of responsibility in MACA ENGINEERING. I have been working in the world of packaging for about twenty years, AROL is an historic Italian company, which has become a Group following a series of acquisitions. It started in 2009, with FT SYSTEM in Alseno, a company dedicated to the production of systems for the inspection and control of containers, which is the business perimeter of AROL. In fact, we are the world leader in the production of capping and closure systems, for any product, meaning anything with a cap that prevents products from escaping from a container."
AROL produces about 700 machines per year, the headquarter is based in Canelli, but the group business is managed with 10 branches, located all over the world, to closely follow the companies that have chosen AROL since over 40 years. A productive history of 30 thousand installed machines, all engineered and produced in one of the 4 Italian sites, which employ about 750 people.
"Why AROL Group? As I was saying, the acquisition process began a few years ago and has accelerated over the last 4/5 years. AROL is a leader for a specific product that comes in several options, with broad versatility but always with a single-product logic: special machines, with a n exceptional level of customization, covering a prevalent function. It was therefore decided to integrate the offer with collateral elements, which guided the acquisition process, based on companies that would have completed the AROL range, expanding its portfolio and ensuring access into new markets. UNIMAC-GHERRI, for example, is a world leader in the manufacture of linear cappers for twist-off caps, but also realizes production lines for the food sector, positioning the AROL brand in a new segment for which we produce small packaging lines with AROL cappers integrated within. Thinking about Tirelli, which today has encorporated KTF ENGINEERING, active in the packaging sector of cosmetics, detergents, home and personal care, the main objective was to acquire skills in the world of capsuling and capping of special caps, such as triggers for sprinklers. With MACA ENGINEERING, we have machines and plants for the manufacturing of caps, especially in aluminum; an acquisition that allowed us to bring in house know-how that previously was not there.
What are your expectations for the event?
"Expectations are high," says Zannier, "the idea is to propose a synthesis of all the realities of the group. In fact, the fair is an important opportunity to show the latest innovations, in a normal world where reality is no longer just virtual. Online events have changed the way of conceiving the presentation of new products, but we will like to go back to the origins, touching the steel of our products and showing live their best features. We want to present our ability to integrate the different activities of the group, to offer a service to the customer, which is complete and developed with operational methods in step with the times. I'm thinking of Industry 4.0, systems with a high degree of automation, the ability to manage flexibility, which is constantly increasing, by introducing more automation, robotics, detection and use of data to improve performances. To this we add our ability to be close to the customer, for example in supporting the selection of the most suitable application and process of the product being processed. All this with the scope to pool the skills we have at group level, both in the manufacturing of caps and in the application, with the aim to offer not just a machine, but a complete service.
For example, small environmental variations can lead to changes in capping performance. But we at Arol can tell the customer that, whereas this should face this, we will give all the necessary support with our equipment and our experience in solving the problem. Another emblematic example is legislation: let's think about the new tethered cap, which remains attached to the bottle and will be compulsory throughout Europe in a few years' time. At the beginning there was panic among beverage producers: our role was precisely that of finding a solution, also for the existing systems. The same can be said about the reduction of the environmental impact, with even more lighter, more thinner caps, which today means 0.6g - 0.8g. Our focus is therefore to optimize the impact on the lines, proposing systems that are able to detect the conditions in which the product is handled, such as environmental conditions, speed, materials. This is an important issue, on which we will also give support in the field, in the categorization of materials and their management inside the plant."
Zannier continues with an assessment of the topic of sustainability, which is certainly not anew thing for AROL, given that, the issue has always been at the center of the activity, although in a different key from what is understood today.
"We've been talking about sustainability for a long time, because in the past it was called 'cost reduction'. Having lighter bottles and caps has always been a central theme. A few years ago the ½ l bottle of a soft drink weighed almost 30g, today we are around 15g and the caps go accordingly. Therefore, material reduction is a theme we have been carrying around for years: it is a continuous evolution that today we call by a different name. What's perhaps new is the speed with which these changes are happening, and especially their media impact. In recent years, we have experienced an explosion in the sale of can lines and glass lines, as if glass and cans have less environmental impact than PET. They don't. It's all about behavior: in terms of environmental impact, there is nothing comparable to PET recycling, not even recycled glass nor aluminum. The issue of communication has greatly influenced consumption and consequently technologies. In this context, flexibility and speed of adaptation are key, for us and for our machines."
What prospects do you see in the market in the coming months?
"The choice to diversify," Zannier continues, "has helped a lot to face this period. Some companies in the group have grown very much and very quickly, driven by consumption at home. One example is UNIMAC-GHERRI, which produces, among other things, machines for packaging sauces and other products that are typically used at home, serving customers who have doubled their production. Tirelli is another interesting case with respect to the market for sanitizers, cleaning products: another important sector last year. In contrast, there was a modest return of plastics but we saw a lot of growth in glass for example: a trend that is continuing."
As for 2020, AROL didn't have much change in turnover. But according to Zannier, "The mix of growing and declining products has changed; moreover, 2021 is confirmed with a positive trend where we see the return to plastics of the most important players, especially in areas that had been strangely abandoned, such as aseptic filling, a sector that has suffered everywhere except in China, perhaps due to the high start-up costs, on average 3 times higher than a standard plant: an aspect that, combined with uncertainty, has led to a delay in investments that are generally around 15-20 million per line. Investments that, however, are starting again, following the confidence and optimism that also guides our growth path, which, thanks to well-modulated choices, gives us a positive look upon the future, strengthened by performances with a + sign, even in years like 2020 and 2021."