Profiling a Film Extruder: What's Next in Films
A rapidly growing company, Next Generation Films has its own interesting story to share with the flexible packaging industry.
According to Next Generation Films’ mission statement, “We Desire a stable, profitable, long-term growth that ultimately provides equally for the needs of our customers, employees, suppliers and the community with the highest degree of integrity, pride and professionalism. We desire to recognize, seek out and service market niches that exist where Next Generation's product value is most desired and demanded, resulting in a value-added product image in the market place. And we desire to position the manufacturing element in a fashion that efficiencies are maintained in pursuit of servicing and producing leading edge film structures that retain higher quality than the industry standards.”
Next Generation Films is a film extruder going on 19 years of service to the flexible packaging industry, and its leadership has a combined 50 years of experience. Next Generation’s CEO Dave Frecka has a true passion and drive for this niche market.
“Film fabrication and technology have made great strides in being able to offer thinner films with greater property deliverables. I tend to spend most of my time bringing new technology to Next and integrating it without much interruption of production,” says Frecka.
Next has gone to great strides to offer their customers the best in film production. “Our food safety rating is a true expression and confirmation of our commitment to our customer’s needs. Top management is committed to meeting the needs of our customers in every area, and that is the basis for determining our success. Only through true customer service can we survive. We drive this point home all the time to our employees. They believe it,” says Frecka.
Frecka’s concern over the company is clear through his constant oversight. Frecka walks the plant three times a day, to make sure success is the constant in the workplace.
“We have had great growth. Buying a machine by itself is no measure of growth; only happy customers count. Next is getting better and better at making high quality film structures that make our customers succeed. Now that’s success. That is our business. Help employees with empowerment, provide the tools to achieve goals, and most importantly, know what the needs are of the customers. Selling old fashioned films at low prices is not an answer to today’s sustainability quest. Next is profitable and growing. We will stay focused on the customer. Next will drive technology to maintain the status as America’s Best,” Frecka excitedly tells FP.
Frecka has his own unique take on the flexible packaging industry as a whole. “Success from making commodity films (i.e. stretch films, can liners, t-shirt bags, garment) or the buying of defunct companies brought back to life based on sharper resin purchasing power does not empower a company to embark in the specialty films business. Much like buying a race car, it does not make you a race car driver. A truly competitive specialty film maker knows how to thin-wall performance films to have a greater yield improvement, thus lower cost. New technology in yield improvements far outperforms a cheaper, thicker film.”
Frecka’s takeaway for the industry? “It’s not what equipment you have, but rather the execution of it and the evolving film structures resulting thereof. Film making is a lot more than throwing in a resin and turning the power on. This is a serious business based on what and how you use resin technologies.”
Rapid Fire Q&A
What are the major trends in your industry and how are they affecting your packaging decisions?
Continued downgauging for source reduction/sustainability practices. Food packaging requires greater food safety development, such as BRC and AIB.
How do your products answer customer needs and market trends?
Our business is centered on developing thin walled films for consumer packaging.
Within the last 12-18 months, what packaging innovations are you most proud of and why?
We have purchased 5- 7- 9-layer lines and have learned to minimize the layer costs with nano nylon resins.
What new materials are you looking at for the future and why?
We work with resin companies R&D to develop film structures that deliver thinner films that meet demanding application with lower material cost.
Please talk about your corporate strategy. What have been some of your keys to success? What aspects are you trying to improve?
Next is great at understanding why a certain film works on a specific application and what tweaks can be made to enhance a specific application.
What makes your company unique?
We have built our company from its core to develop unique film performance properties at lower costs by careful use and understanding of high cost resins. It is the configuration of these polymer molecules along with processing advantages that make Next unique. We have great analytical tools as well as real time management of our extrusion process. Our 3 layer films can have up to 12 different resin types. That is great flexibility. All of our lines are 3 layer with under 5 percent gauge
Do you see sustainability as the continuing trend in 2012? What other trends do you see around the bend?
More automatic packaging machines and the need for higher quality films that are consistent.
What other business strategy or move have you made in the last 12 months that has positively benefited your bottom line (or will have a positive impact soon)?
Volume. Nothing helps the bottom line more. More customers can bring value too.
What is your specialty (in flexible packaging)?
The best damned film supplier in the world.
In what areas can your company be used as an example to other extruders and converters? In what capacity could other extruders and converters look to your company as being the standard-bearer, or a template, that they could strive to become?
Being a creator of films for the customer’s sake – not being a me too company.
What can we expect to see from your company in the coming year?
Continued growth provided our technology picks win customers.
There is lots of talk about the cost of materials going up. Are you concerned with these changes in price, and if so, how do you plan to accommodate it?
Next is the best at finding the best set of polymers at a cost point that allows downgauging and maintaining performance.
What kind of new demand do you see happening within the industry? Has anything taken you by surprise?
Barrier films are exploding in demand. We remain surprised by the need for our 3-layer films.
Annual sales? Size of company? Number of employees?
Around $200 million this year; $225 million in 2013; 260 employees. Also, our middle management has developed quite nicely in order for Next to have stable controlled growth.
Next Generation Films' Accomplishments
• Distinct manufacturing cultures for each of its plants, which is fine tuned for each of its products quality expectations.
• Next is a product redevelopment specialist in sustainable films with uncommon and unrivaled properties utilizing unique tools from medical applications and evolving manufacturing techniques.
• Next specifies unique resins, which are designed and made to aid in the development of films with extreme wideness of properties to support higher yield and cost effective films.
• First blown film company in America to receive British Retail Consortium (BRC) Food Technical Standard “A-Grade” rating in food safety, the highest rating possible.
• Received Superior Rating from American Institute of Baking (AIB), the highest rating possible.
• Real-time 24/7 monitoring of production processes and variations. Control systems were custom-designed from our IT department, not-off-the shelf items.
• All Next staff is home grown, receiving their education on the job.
• In the past 18 months, the company has spent $33 million on 9 new lines.
Next Generation Films, Inc.
(800) 884-8150; www.nextgenfilms.com