BUERGOFOL, the manufacturer of packaging and industrial foil, is setting new standards in its sector of industry thanks to the support of Steinbeis experts
Defining sustainability in business is always subjective, but there is a general tenor that runs through all definitions: Financially viable activities should not be conducted at the expense of future generations, and the natural capacity of used resources to “regenerate themselves” must be protected. Steinbeis expert Dr.-Ing. Günther Schöffner has been supporting BUERGOFOL with its business excellence model as it embarks on a journey to achieve more sustainable production.
There are so many different approaches to sustainability. But it’s a less well known fact that there is already a business excellence model that takes all sustainability factors into account: the model developed by the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM). Two of the eight fundamental principles of excellence are “creating a sustainable future” and “sustaining outstanding results.” Taking these aspects into account places greater emphasis on longer-term decision-making as a company rather than trying to achieve short-term gains. The sustainable nature of excellence can be applied to all phases of corporate development, from the moment a firm is set up to periods of growth and restructuring. The EFQM model allows for all kinds of fair and future-centric methods and approaches, as long as they promote positive outcomes for all stakeholders in the long term, hand in hand with sustainable business excellence. It also covers Economy 4.0 and Industry 4.0 factors, and any other methods that benefit future endeavors in the long term.
BUSINESS EXCELLENCE: MEDIUM-SIZED BUSINESS DOES NOT EQUATE TO MEDIOCRE STANDARDS
The long-term concepts of business excellence can be adopted by companies of all sizes, in all sectors of industry. Even if medium-sized firms have more limited financial resources than big companies, they can still achieve sustainable excellence of a global standard thanks to their outstanding know-how, adaptability, and short decision-making paths. This is reflected in sustainable products, highly efficient processes, and exemplary leadership. This is where the Steinbeis Consulting Center for Business Excellence comes in with its consulting and transfer services. The experts at the Steinbeis Enterprise advise companies, introduce them to established methods, and help small and medium-sized businesses maintain their standing in the market.
BUERGOFOL DECIDES TO GO FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND BUSINESS EXCELLENCE
One example of a recent project involved supporting BUERGOFOL, a medium-sized producer of packaging and industry films from the Bavarian city of Siegenburg. On close inspection, a product that initially appears to be a disposable material capable of damaging the environment actually turns out to be a hi-tech solution. PET foils are produced to package and protect perishable foods with the aim of preserving meat, vegetables, and sausages without compromising quality, at the same time maximizing shelf life and making it possible to store products sustainably. The foils are hi-tech because each of the up to seven layers, which are between 2 and 20 micrometers thick, has a special function. They preserve flavor, repel water and oxygen, or provide protection from sudden thermal stress in order to preserve freshness. Accordingly, the manufacturing process is highly demanding, which is why BUERGOFOL has earned a strong reputation in its global, highly price-oriented industry over the last 20 years – despite only running manufacturing facilities in Bavaria.
The aim of BUERGOFOL’s project was to build its pole position, defend its leading role in the long term, and ward off competitors from Europe, Asia, and the United States. A continual stream of new products should be launched rapidly on the market through ever-shortening innovation cycles. As a result, new practices and approaches to innovation management would be needed.
GLOBAL WARMING WOULD BE EVEN MORE SERIOUS WITHOUT PLASTICS
Ultra-efficient processes should be introduced to reduce waste, throughput times, and storage needs, also minimizing energy consumption without sacrificing the firm’s ability to remain flexible when processing orders and innovating. The entire project was supported by the experts at the Steinbeis Consulting Center for Business Excellence by drawing on EFQM methods, tools used in cybernetic management, and the methods of Management 4.0. The experts also adopted a holistic approach toward changing the company culture in order to instill the changed methods of leadership and collaboration in all areas of the business. Another aim of the project was to reduce waste levels in the long term by 35%, cut specific energy consumption by 20%, and raise recycling levels by 35%. Basing these targets on environmental goals showed that plastic products can also be produced sustainably.
Compared to its competitors in this area, BUERGOFOL is already leading from the front. As well as just producing foils, BUERGOFOL also prints and laminates foils at its plant in Neutraubling using start-of-the-art machinery. In many ways the technology looks simple, but it’s actually extremely complex. Printing on several layers has to be perfect for products featuring barcodes to be legible in an instant at the supermarket checkout. Individual layers have to be joined perfectly to the next layer to protect valuable foodstuffs from environmental influences and prevent contamination. Similarly, another aspect that is not immediately apparent is that plastic packaging makes a significant contribution to environmental protection at every stage of the food and beverage value chain. As Dr. Kurt Stark, director of business development and sustainability at BUERGOFOL, explained at a 2018 packaging trade show: “global warming would be even more serious without plastics.” Stark points out that this is because plastic protects the products it contains and ensures that environmental investments made in such products do not go to waste.
The project conducted by Steinbeis and BUERGOFOL kicked off at the beginning of 2019 and is already bearing fruit. “It is pulling together years of experience and the know-how gathered by our team in implementing and applying concepts of excellence to other growth and restructuring programs,” explains Schöffner. Following years of expansion and investment in research, development, and machinery, the aim now is to link up the three BUERGOFOL sites in Ingolstadt, Siegenburg, and Neutraubling by dovetailing processes and the business culture, such that the overall performance of the company is outstanding even in global terms. It is known from experience that these things take time, but the foundations for the ambitious project have now been laid and in the long term, it will be worthwhile for all project stakeholders.
THE EFQM MODEL
With the EFQM excellence model, sustainable planning is used with the aim of satisfying the needs of all stakeholders. That means sustainability not only gives sufficient consideration to the environment and natural resources, it also takes into account the long-term interests of other parties involved in areas affected by the company:
- Future-proof jobs for the workforce
- Reliable partnerships with suppliers and other partners
- Long-term customer relationships
- Promotion of public welfare in areas affected by the business
- Long-term returns to shape the future of the company