'Close to the customer' - this is the slogan being used by ALBIS PLASTIC GmbH, the global specialist in distribution and compounding of technical thermoplastics, headquartered in Hamburg. 

This guiding company principle will be center stage at Fakuma, one of the leading trade shows for plastics processing and technology. At no other show has ALBIS conducted as many customer discussions in an intimate atmosphere as here. This year, Fakuma is the most important industry event for the company. The Hanseatic distributor and compounder will welcome many customers and partners. Philip O. Krahn, CEO at ALBIS PLASTIC, reveals the topics that will center stage for ALBIS.

Mr. Krahn, what can customers, partners and trade fair visitors expect from the ALBIS PLASTIC stand at this year's Fakuma?

Krahn: On the one hand, we will be showcasing our most recent product developments and industry-specific application examples to visitors and, on the other hand, we will be advising customers on current projects and seizing this ideal opportunity to initiate new projects. An intensive exchange with customers and business partners really helps in the development and innovation of products, applications and technologies.

Our new, freshly designed website will be ready to launch just in time for Fakuma, and will supply useful information about products, applications and services. 

What does this mean to ALBIS as a compounder?

Krahn: As a technical service provider, we react as quickly as possible to customer requirements and market demands. This, of course, requires a high degree of flexibility. Our development and production are finely tuned to accommodate this. We offer customers material solutions that are as individual and as specifically-tailored as possible.

ALBIS does not just see itself as a compounder, but also as a 'technical service provider'. As a distributor, what added-value do you offer customers?

Krahn: We work closely with the leading plastics producers, offering a wide range of well-known brands that enjoy a very high level of market acceptance and rely on long-term partnerships - we have been working with many of our partners for decades. For example, this year we are celebrating 50 years of close partnership with both BASF and Lyondellbasell. ALBIS has very good access to raw materials and we know that our long-term customers particularly appreciate their close relationship with ALBIS during market-wide supply shortages, such as currently being experienced in Europe. 

Furthermore, we are continuously expanding our product portfolio and our sphere of activity. Recently, INEOS Styrolution granted us the distribution rights for K-Resin in Europe, which will further intensify our collaboration. 

We are also in the process of increasing our presence in the Balkans. As well as having existing successful businesses in Slovenia, we have also identified similar demand in Croatia and Serbia, both rapidly growing markets. Firstly, we are planning to increase our sales presence there and, secondly, we plan to expand our warehousing and logistics network and our available resources in the region. 

Recently, we have heard about ALBIS' plans to expand its activities in Italy and to build an additional production plant in the USA - how are these projects going?

Krahn: We have founded a foreign subsidiary in Italy and the business situation is looking very positive. We are, therefore, expanding our team there. Whereas, in America, our new production plant in Duncan was officially opened on 31. August, 2017. This is, of course, very good news for the customers that we already serve in Europe. From now on, we will be able to supply our American customers directly from our local production site. ALBIS is ensuring that all production sites obtain IATF 16949 quality management system certification - this is planned for Duncan in 2018.

Incidentally, in addition to Italy and the USA, we have also invested in more machinery at our production site in Great Britain and thus increased our production capacity.

What roll do SCM-related processes and services play in ALBIS's strategy?

Krahn: A crucial one. ALBIS has a wide and efficient network of warehousing locations and generally supplies European customers within 24 hours. I would like to point out, in connection with this, that our on-time-delivery rate for standard deliveries is over 98%. Existing Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) connections with manufacturers, suppliers, service providers and, of course, not least customers, significantly simplify order management. The whole process is also strengthened by our automated availability check, whereby we check the supply capability along the entire supply chain for any individual order before confirming the order and so significantly increase our customers' planning security.

Furthermore, we offer certain special services such as special and additional packaging according to customer requirements. In addition, we work with a wide range of order types, offering our customers guaranteed stocking all the way through to consignment warehousing or VMI solutions. 

And finally, Mr. Krahn, one last question. What company-wide demands and challenges will ALBIS face in the future?

Krahn: We have embraced the idea of digital transformation and are making it a high priority, for example, in relation to Industry 4.0. 

In this regard, we see particularly stronger networking of our means of production, intelligent control of the processes and the possibility of processing larger quantities of process data concurrently and approaches for predictive maintenance and predictive quality. 

However, we expect that drastic changes will ensue in our cooperation with business partners, customers and suppliers. This will involve, among other things, the optimized integration of business processes, for example, with EDI or through the supply of process-related data via an online portal. Cloud technology will come in useful here.

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