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January 1, 2008
3 Min Read
The Iron Curtain fell and so did this processor’s fortunes, until a determined man and his employees took the reins.
Oleksandr Galkin radiates energy and confidence. The president of Ukrplastic (Kiev), the leading flexible packaging producer in Eastern Europe, is certain of the future of his business. Success did not always seem so clear. Sixteen years ago, the 80-year-old company was on the verge of collapse when Ukraine won its sovereignty but lost almost 70% of its energy sources. Industrial output fell and inflation was rampant.
One of the first steps in the company’s turnaround was a gradual phasing out of PVC film extrusion. During restructuring the company began to introduce new technologies and materials, looked for new products, and learned to conduct marketing. “As a graduate of Kiev Food Technology Institute, I managed to grasp the immense potential for food packaging in Ukraine,” recalls Galkin. Since gaining independence, the country has worked to regain its reputation as the â€˜breadbasket of the USSR,’ when Ukrainian collective farms provided more than a quarter of all Soviet agricultural output. “We were confident that a country with the objective to be a major European food supplier would need world-class packaging materials,” says Galkin.
They were right. Ukrplastic re-entered the flexible packaging market in 1994 with the start-up of a modern BOPP film line for Ukraine’s rapidly growing food and tobacco industries. Success led to the acquisition of leading-edge multilayer film lines. The processor also invested in a Bielloni flexographic printing press followed by more European-made flexographic and gravure machines. Today Ukrplastic runs five gravure and six flexo presses including two new, wide-web, 10-color, servodriven CI flexo presses from Fischer & Krecke. Self-reliant, the company has automated in-house production of rotogravure printing cylinders and laser cut plates for flexo printing.
The processor currently produces barrier films, multilayer BOPP films, twist films for candy, and metallized films. “We have increased our sales nearly 25% compared with last year. Now we are at $100 million and account for more than 40% of the flexible packaging market in Ukraine. In the past seven years we invested over $100 million in equipment and technology,” Galkin says. “Currently we export about 40% of our production to Russia and the Baltic region. We would like to make Ukrplastic a world-class company and a diversified supplier of packaging products not only for the countries of the former Soviet Union but also for Central and Western Europe.”
A big project for Ukrplastic this year is the installation of an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) for film rolls. “This system will allow precise interaction among production areas, will reduce downtime, and improve customer service,” explains Galkin. “We want to improve employee working conditions and enhance inventory management; the system will assure routine floor clean-up by placing rolls into the AR/RS racks.” The company also is planning cleanroom film extrusion for the pharmaceutical industry.
Galkin is a frequent visitor to trade shows worldwide and personally negotiates deals and evaluates equipment, though he brainstorms proposals with his team of executives, which includes a chief of technology, a plant manager, and a VP for construction. When MPW visited, the company was upgrading its facility in preparation for new equipment. While giving a plant tour, Galkin stopped at a Macro Engineering multilayer co-extrusion line and conversed in fluent English with the Canadian service engineer about the progress in upgrading the line.
Looking ahead, Galkin says, “In 2008 Ukrplasic will install two new wide-web printing presses: flexo and gravure with inline lamination. Also, we are going to put in a new 9-layer blown-film line from Brampton Engineering at the end of next year. We may reach a turnover of $150 million in a couple of years.”
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