Ultralen was established more than 20 years ago and since then its core business has been the supply of BOPP and PET plastic film to the printed paper sector, although in the past few years it has expanded its activity to include the supply of low thickness plastic film to flexible packaging producers. An important role is played by its technical consultancy service, which works closely with both customers and the international commercial department.
The Ultralen group consists of two companies: Ultralen Italia Srl, based in the Brescia area of northern Italy; and Ultralen Film GmbH, based in south western Germany, which between them process around 6000 tonnes of materials a year. Overall the group, headquartered near Brescia in Lombardy, employs about 40 people and had a turnover in 2010 of €20 million. The company is engaged in cutting and distributing film for the printed paper industry, including publishing, where its products are employed for paper and cardboard finishing to add shine, sturdiness or special effects to items such as boxes, CD or DVD covers, book covers, menus, catalogues and brochures. In addition, as mentioned above its low thickness plastic films are employed in the flexible packaging sector.
Bringing in the new
Ultralen is constantly working on the development of innovative new products. In addition to the materials for the flexible packaging sector which have recently been introduced to its range, Ultralen is researching new materials for use in the decorative and packaging industry. It has also recently launched two new products, both targeted towards the printed paper sector. The first is a sturdy, matt BOPP anti-scratch film for both wet and thermal lamination. It was launched about four months ago and is already proving popular amongst Ultralen’s clients. As it is more resistant to scratches and can therefore maintain its aesthetic qualities, this film can be employed in high quality applications.
The second product, ‘Velvet’, is also a matt BOPP film with a velvet like look and feel. As with the previous product it can be used for both wet and thermal lamination and was introduced on the market about four months ago. As Mr Soncini explains, “We embrace market changes in general, without fear, so as to meet our target of continuous improvement. We encourage innovation and believe in quality in everything we do.”
Meeting market demand
With its large warehouses and strategically positioned production facilities, Ultralen is able to fulfil its customers’ requests in a very short time. The group also has cutting departments, which means that in addition to distributing standard products, it can also supply special products – such as film which has been cut to exact customer specifications. In 2011 it invested in two new cutting machines for its German and Italian sites. These large dimension machines will increase production capacity and further reduces clients’ lead times.
“Partly to follow market demand and partly because of our vocation, at Ultralen a lot of attention is paid to new product research, for example extending product transformation and distribution to the flexible packaging field,” says Mr Soncini. “We carry out continuous investments in both technology and staff. Our workers have to be continuously trained and informed so as to be able to best meet customers’ needs, while the machine stock is always at the cutting edge to offer speed and quality in order fulfilment. Continuous investments and customer service are fundamental if we are to continue the positive trend of the past few years.”
In environmental terms, the group is interested in new biodegradable plastics. Indeed, one of the materials already in use for its films, polypropylene (PP) offers several environmentally friendly advantages, such as the fact that no air, water or ground pollution takes place during its manufacture and that a certain proportion of its waste can be reintegrated into the film manufacturing process.
A Europe-wide supplier
Whilst in terms of plastic film for the flexible packaging market the company’s activity is currently restricted to the Italian market, in terms of its other products Ultralen supplies most of western Europe.
The Italian distribution is carried out by Ultralen Italia S.r.l. whilst Ultralen Film GmbH caters to the rest of Europe. Over the past 2-3 years the group has extended its distribution network to include eastern European countries such as Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia and Romania.
The next possible geographical move for Ultralen would be to enter the markets of the former Soviet states. Any development of this kind would begin with the distribution of plastic film for the printed paper industry and then possibly expand to plastic film for the flexible packaging sector when the company is firmly established. Mr Soncini explains that whether future growth will be conducted organically or will include acquisitions depends entirely upon what opportunities appear on the horizon.