Founded almost 40 years ago, the Perfect Containers Group is a family-owned and managed business, headquartered in Mumbai with seven manufacturing plants for tubes in Palghar and Silvassa which are both about two hours away. Founded by Ramkaran Karwa in 1982, the professionally run company is now managed by the next generation – Aman Karwa and Sameer Karwa.
It is one of the leading manufacturers of tubes in the country, both aluminium collapsible tubes and laminate tubes for the pharma, hair dyes, cosmetics, and adhesive industries. The company only manufactures tubes and is unusual in that it has not given up aluminium tubes and is, in fact, engaged in their further development as an essential category of containers for the foreseeable future. One of the benefits of aluminium is that it is 100% recyclable.
We had an opportunity to speak with Jagdish Kadu, the vice president of the Perfect Containers Group about the tube industry in general and particularly about the company’s stance on modernization and automation. Jagdish Kadu explained that the company has been producing aluminium tubes for the cosmetic, Pharma, food, eye ointment, oral care, super glue (cyanoacrylate), and hair dye industry, and these categories make up about 90% of its turnover.
Its clients include major global and national brands such as Abbott, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Bayer, L’Oreal, Cipla, and Sun Pharma. The company’s tubes are also extensively used for exports from India by pharma and cosmetic companies and these have done well in the past 20 months particularly in the food and cosmetic segments.
On modernization and automation
As an established manufacturer of both aluminium and laminate tubes, with large capacities for both, Perfect’s extensive array of tube manufacturing and decoration equipment has been imported from Europe. Kadu explained to us that, most of the machines are from German, Swiss, and south East Asian manufacturers. In most of the European machines, control and automation components are from B&R Automation.
Aluminium tube production requires larger number of machines and steps, while laminate tube production is easier to configure as a single line in which the entire process can be accomplished using fewer machines, he said. The overall manufacturing process and lead time is less in laminate tubes compared to aluminium tubes.
However, laminated tubes represent the fastest-growing type or segment in the tube packaging market. This segment is witnessing growth due to the advantages such as ease of portability, handling, shape retention, flexibility, and cost. In 2020, the laminated tube segment accounted for an approximate 48.5% share of the tube packaging market, in terms of value.
Kadu explained that the entire packaging industry as it grows and becomes more structured is undergoing a shift from older equipment to modern automated machines and concepts. “Currently, there is an influx of technocrats and professionals, as our industry was earlier a cottage industry. We are working on the integration and automation of our machines, by which our operation costs can be reduced.”
Kadu adds that the modernization process has to be evolutionary and that it is a combination of retrofitting old machines as well as the integration of processes and machines and the purchase of new machines. While the entire process requires a focus on automation, “It’s a combination of all these things,” he says.
We are taking the help of B&R which is here in India and nearby, and other automation suppliers in the integration stage. We have to consult those companies who are experts in certain areas and technologies. In the last couple of years, we have integrated 30 to 40% of our old equipment and even more in terms of the number of machines.
We have also indigenized machine assemblies/parts of our imported machines with the help of the local manufacturers, and B&R is also one of them. We have also installed vision systems on our machines. We are particularly keen on vision systems so that all faults and defects are objectively identified at each step of the process. We have already imported and installed vision systems on most of our automated production lines and we are planning to continue installing these on the rest. This has helped us both during the pandemic and will continue to make us more productive since we have reduced manual intervention to large extent. Entire focus is on improving efficiency and effectiveness of the plant to improve overall operational cost per 1,000.
For food manufacturing process, requisites certification has already been obtained as per industry norms and regulations. In addition to that, to sustain in the global market, passionate about obtaining further international certifications.
Without being asked or prompted, Jagdish Kadu speaks about his experience and interaction with B&R. He says, “The B&R team are different than the others, they have spent a lot of time with the machine builders and their network is very good. We always prefer them since they have accumulated a lot of expertise from working with various parts of the supply chain from machine manufacturer to packaging converters, filling and sealing contractors, and brand owners.”
Innovation and growth
Kadu tells us that Perfect Containers Group has several interesting innovations that it is working on as it moves toward smart and sustainable packaging and IoT 4.0 – although he feels that the modernization must be gradual and step by step using a combination of approaches. Speaking about the pandemic and the economy of the past 20 months which has generally been kind to the packaging industry, he said, “The economic recovery was slow but it is coming back. “However, the increase in raw material prices such as aluminium going up by 42% and paper by 28% in the past six months have been a challenge. Nevertheless, the global tube market seems healthy with forecasts of 6% annual growth for the next few years.”
The demand for tube packaging in the pharmaceutical industry, is expected to remain robust as hospitals, drugs, and PPE manufacturers are responding to the crisis. The demand for household cleaning products, healthcare, and medical goods is not expected to decrease dramatically, and retail distribution for these types of products through online delivery can be expected to increase.
To improve the sustainability of packaging, Perfect too is engaged in the new development of various products and that can be environment friendly, and which are adding to their enlarged product basket.