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CLP Industries – Manufacturing Plastic Packaging, But Planning a Greener Future / By Hila Yaakobi

CLP develops and manufactures flexible packages and is among Israel’s top food packaging companies. Much of the packaging familiar to us from the shelves of the local market were developed and manufactured at the company’s factory in Negba. CLP was founded in 1971 by Kibbutz Negba and one year ago was sold and transformed into a subsidiary of the Tadbik Group. We spoke with Avigail Slov, human resources manager, and Ronen Or, vice president of marketing and sales, about the company’s operations and its uniqueness in the field of packaging, relations between management and workers, social responsibility and CLP’s quest for environment-friendly solutions.

Who are CLP’s clients?
Avigail: Over 50% of CLP’s operations are devoted to exports to the US, Britain, South Africa, Eastern Europe, Russia and Central and South America. In Israel CLP supplies a substantial portion of its products to large food companies – Tnuva, Strauss, Osem, Elite and Telma, as well as cleaning supplies companies like Sano. All of our products are custom-tailored, each product with its unique characteristics, based on the client’s needs.

Do you produce only specialized packaging, or generic packaging as well?
Ronen: There are no two of the same Bambas. Every product is made to the customer’s specifications and every packaging represents a specific product for a specific customer – no two are alike. Therefore CLP does not have generic products or shelf products. The products are tailor-made and meet all of the customer’s requirements, from graphics and design to printing, form, functionality and meeting the right sealing qualities for the product. The service CLP provides its clients starts with the product planning and design phase in collaboration with the client’s own design company. We have a deep understanding of all printing processes, allowing us to achieve very high quality. Printing is a very important department at CLP. It’s a large department with strong capabilities, both in terms of its capacity and its abilities and understanding in the area of printing. Printing really meets another need, the real need of the product, which applies throughout its shelf life. Packaging enables the product to last longer on the shelf, thereby allowing consumers to receive the freshest product possible.


Avigail Slov, human resources manager (left), and Ronen Or,
 vice president of marketing and sales (right)

How does packaging affect the product’s shelf life?
Ronen: Packaging is critical throughout the shelf life demanded by the customers, therefore we combine various sheets of polymers, sometimes combined with aluminum and other materials, and join them together. This procedure is called lamination. Lamination essentially creates imperviousness to moisture, oxygen and light, thereby providing a substantial solution for keeping the product “alive” and fresh until the point where the packaging is opened.

What can you tell us regarding environmental preservation? Manufacturing plastic packaging is not exactly green…
Ronen: Some of the packages we produce are plastic stand-up pouches that have exactly the same preservation ability of tin cans. These retort pouches can provide a shelf life of up to three years. Cans are less green than our pouches, even though they’re made of plastic. Even a glass jar is less green, although both types of materials are recyclable.

Why are your retort pouches greener?
Ronen: A flexible package has a distinct advantage when it comes to transport, storage and energy for production. The amount of energy required to recycle glass jars and aluminum cans renders the process not very worthwhile and not very green at all. Still it’s true our materials are not recyclable and don’t decompose, and this is a real problem we’ve been addressing and confronting for a long time, and we’re looking for solutions for recycling possibilities. Today there are recyclable products – types of composites of various polymer sheets that eventually will be recyclable – but as of now there is no instance on earth of a decomposable product made of more than one layer of material. We’re constantly working to improve the situation. For example, we’re developing products that will be recycled, and not just into energy. We’re also working with decomposable materials, but so far we don’t know and nobody else knows how to manufacture from these materials a product that can provide a good enough solution when it comes to the product’s shelf life and imperviousness (to moisture, oxygen and light). It doesn’t exist yet.

Yet you claim your products are greener than cans…?
Ronen: A truck of empty cans traveling down the road, from the factory to the food manufacturer and from there to the retail chain is equivalent to two cartons of our product in terms of capacity.

Today the world is not only shifting to the use of decomposable materials, but to reducing packaging and trimming the costs associated with transport. In Britain today there are products bearing a plane symbol indicating that the product was not flown, which constitutes a substantial savings in fuel and air pollution.

What other steps do you take to make the factory more environmentally friendly?
Ronen: Today we’re in the middle of several processes aimed to provide one of two solutions. The first is developing recyclable packages. We’re nearing solutions in this area and are making great efforts based on an understanding that the material in its present state is not environmentally friendly. The second issue is shifting to the use of decomposable materials. We’re also in the process of building an enormous recovery apparatus.

What is a recovery apparatus?
Ronen: It’s an apparatus for recycling solvents. During the manufacturing process we use solvents that evaporate into the atmosphere in the form of poisonous vapors. The aim of this container is to take in these materials, reconstitute them into liquid and recycle them for further use. It’s a very complex, expensive procedure, but we’ve decided to adopt it because in terms of environmental preservation its added value is very significant.

Over 50% of your production is exported. How and why is it worthwhile for your overseas clients?
Ronen: It’s worthwhile for them because we have several capabilities that are very unique. Our uniqueness lies not in Bamba bags or coffee bags, but in complex solutions to meet specific needs. The stand-up pouches we manufacture that serve as cans are one example. These are pouches are capable of undergoing a very aggressive process like that of cans, e.g. a sterilization process – 30-40 minutes of cooking at a temperature of 120 degrees [240 degrees Fahrenheit] after which is returns to its original state and looks good on the shelf. Visually speaking, it’s much more appealing to the eye and in terms of space savings – cans and glass jars can’t compare.
Our uniqueness lies in high technological capabilities, the platform for joint development, the knowledge amassed here and the good customer service we provide everywhere in the world – all of these put together are the answer to your question.

What are your strengths?
Ronen: Our pouches are one of our significant strengths. We’re also very strong in the field of medical diagnostics products; these are products designed for clean rooms, including packages for electronic chips used in blood-cell operations during surgery. Because they’re used in real time the demands made on us are very stringent.

Are your foreign exports limited to specialized products?
Ronen: We also produce more run-of-the-mill products intended for export, such as Knorr bags for South Africa.

Do you have competitors in Israel?
Ronen: We share the local market with another major player that’s about as big as we are in the local market. We also share the market with other companies in the case of certain customers. But we’re the only Israeli player that has such a substantial export segment and provides such a range of solutions.

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What is the composition of the CLP staff?
Avigail: The company employs 270 workers. The makeup is really varied. We have young people and veteran employees, some of who were among the company’s founders. Most come from the surrounding communities – Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, nearby moshavim and kibbutzim. The production departments have 190 employees and the rest work in the headquarter departments. Production consists of a very advanced printing department, a lamination department and a finishing department.
The company headquarters, located at the manufacturing facility, consist of the finance department, marketing and sales, purchasing and development.
We have a very substantial development section that works on tailoring the qualities of the different products to meet the needs of our systems. From a professional standpoint, mostly materials engineers and chemical engineers are employed in development. We also have a quality assurance department, information systems personnel and a laboratory staff.

With such a large range of population segments represented on the CLP staff, how do your create a sense of unity and identification with the company?
Avigail: We have benefits and training programs that are heavily invested in. There’s a very nice benefits plan that accompanies the employees at different levels throughout the year.
The matter of communication and collaboration with the employees and updating them on developments at the company is very important to us. We issue a company newsletter on a quarterly basis and it’s sent to the employees’ home address. It contains newsworthy information, including information related to benefits, as well as updates regarding visits by customers, reaching standards [e.g. Platinum status], annual safety training and even columns written by employees describing a day in their lives.

What types of benefits does the company offer?
Avigail: Noting events in employee’s personal lives, handling issues affecting individual employees – both happy and difficult events. We mark holidays, organize company-wide events, weekends, department-wide activities. And professional training programs are held all the time.

What is the atmosphere at CLP like?
Avigail: CLP is a good place to work, especially considering the options available in the area. In terms of CLP’s size we’re somewhere in the middle; not a really small company and not a gigantic company. Most of the people know one another and there’s a certain sense of intimacy. It’s a pleasant place to work.
Ronen: One of the things that characterizes CLP is the assortment of people. There’s no separation between headquarters and production. On the production line I need the knowledge and professional understanding of the printing department and the guy in the lamination department, which requires tight communication. We have professionals on an exceptional level whose training process sometimes lasts years and includes very long specialization processes.
Avigail: Unlike most factories that locate the marketing department in the Central Region and the factory way out in the South or the North, here everybody works together at the same site.


A Flexo machine at the factory

How would you describe management’s relations with the employees?
Ronen: We’re in a process of change at the moment. A new CEO came in recently and naturally part of the company dynamics has changed and will change. But there’s a very distinct dynamic here that stems from the connection everybody has with everybody else. There’s no success that can be ascribed to a certain place that holds up the entire system. Our product appears very simple, but it’s actually a very complex product whose success depends on a whole lot of people and details throughout the chain.
Avigail: There’s no barrier here. Everybody works together with everybody else. There’s no “officers’ mess hall” and there’s no rigid and palpable hierarchy.
Ronen: At a place like CLP the CEO has to be totally connected with the production floor in order to understand what this place is all about, to live it and understand where it can go. You can’t control things from the top. The production floor is the workers, each and every one of them. Therefore it’s important for the CEO to create dynamics with the workers all the time.

What does CLP’s hiring process consist of?
The hiring process is very orderly for every employee. On the first day workers receive safety instructions, and then later periodic safety training. The system helps enable employees to meet all of these standards. The entire maintenance setup is built to maintain the production halls in a way that they meet the strictest standards.

Which standards does CLP have to meet?
Ronen: CLP is part of a very small forum in Israel that holds Platinum standards, which is the highest quality standard. The State of Israel has only 15 companies that uphold it. In order to earn Platinum standards the factory has to earn five different standards. We play on a very stringent playing field with very high, tough standards.
Avigail: With us on the list are organizations like Rafael, Israel Aerospace Industries, Strauss and other giants. We’re on a playing field with the big guys. In addition to quality standards we also meet very stringent international hygiene standards since we supply products to the food industry.
Ronen: Inspections are often conducted, including inspections by our foreign clients; for example retail chains in Britain conduct very strict inspections here.

Does the need for rigid regulations aimed at upholding these high standards have an impact on how the company is run?
Ronen: Of course there have to be very clear standards here in terms of discipline, work processes and clear regulations. In order to do what we do requires meticulous attention to a lot of small details. This diligence applies to all of us, from the CEO at the top, down through the managerial ranks and ending with the final worker. The outcome is always a product of combined work by all of us together.
Avigail: Obviously this takes discipline, but that’s an inseparable part of the work patterns here and it’s well assimilated. One of the quality standards at the top of our priorities is worker safety. The employee’s “education” starts his first day on the job and includes adherence to all safety regulations.

What are the company’s values?
Avigail: We place the company’s values under a single rubric – social responsibility: Toward company employees this means benefits, assisting individuals, fair and transparent work relations and maintaining the worker’s safety, respecting workers, a training program, fair compensation and help with various problems. Toward customers this means quality and responsibility and meeting the highest quality standards. Toward the environment this means we’re pursuing a number of processes, including the construction of a recovery apparatus. And toward the community this means making a contribution to the community.

What does your contribution to the community consist of?
Avigail: We employ boys from a youth hostel in Ashkelon and as part of a project called Atidim for Industry designed to bring students from peripheral areas into industry we employ a college student. But our flagship project is adopting the Apple House. Apple House is a children’s dormitory in Gan Yavneh that houses 200 homeless children between the ages of six months and 18 years. We maintain constant contact with Apple House, hold parties there, mark holidays and hold camps during breaks. We recently started a project to help teach young drivers, from driver’s ed through accompaniment after receiving a license. We did a construction project there and have been involved in many other activities. Two amazing outcomes of this activity are an adoption story – one of our female workers adopted a child from the dormitory – and a host family – the family of one of our workers hosts one of the children during vacations and on weekends.

What is CLP’s recruitment process?
Avigail: When a position becomes available we work with placement companies and with Jobnet. The screening is done jointly by Human Resources and the manager recruiting the new employee. The screening process includes a joint interview with the professional manager and Human Resources. For more senior positions we send candidates for external evaluation.

What does the integration process for new employees include?
Avigail: For most of the positions that are not for the production departments we prepare a training program in advance, including an introduction to all of the departments at the factory. New employees sit down with each of the department managers and learn the material. Generally the learning process takes about a month. Of course there are also safety training courses and training courses to familiarize the employee with company regulations.

What are CLP’s goals looking toward the future?
Ronen: To continue being a leader in flexible packaging, both in Israel and abroad. Those are our goals and that’s where we’re headed. Our aim is to strengthen the local market and continue being a leading supplier in Israeli industry in all of the fields we’re active in today, and there’s always room to grow. In our international activity we’ll continue to operate in our unique niches, to which we bring added value. We’ll continue to grow. The world is big enough and the packaging industry keeps developing and becoming more interesting. Whoever continues to be innovative and creative and runs forward will lead the way. That’s where we’re headed.

As a company where a substantial portion of its activity is with foreign markets, how is the world financial crisis affecting you?
Ronen: We can get scared, but it won’t help matters. We recognize that those who have added value to offer can take advantage of it during times of crisis. In terms of fact, during crisis periods there are always those who succeed and keep moving forward, growing and developing. We won’t stop selling to Britain because we’re hit by the decline in value of the local currency. We’ll continue taking advantage of our relative advantage and I’m convinced we have room to grow.


For the Hebrew Article  

 
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