BERICAP China and Suzhou Zi Jin Plastic Co., Ltd wrote a success story without compare and showed that a relationship among equals leads to optimum results for all parties.
China is known as the world’s largest market for plastics and a significant driver for the plastic industry’s ongoing growth. While the Chinese market strived for the lowest possible costs for decades, the wind of change has been blowing within the last few years. The rising middle class in China is asking for more elaborate products – not only in the plastics industry, but also in related branches such as the packaging industry needing plastic components like caps and closures for their products. For this reason, China’s plastic industry is undergoing a comprehensive transition from quantity to quality, placing its focus on technological innovation and environmental-friendly concepts. These challenges were also faced by Zi Jin Plastic Industry. The company is the largest jerry can manufacturer in China, which produces and supplies 6.5 million pieces per year and was established in 2001. Starting with an annual turnover of RMB 0.5 million Yuan, the company continuously kept on growing and reached a turnover of about RMB 102 million Yuan in 2017. The products ranged 2.5 litres to 62 litres for the chemical, agro-chemical and food packaging industry.
What challenges Chinese manufacturers, creates excellent opportunities especially for German suppliers who are well-known for the quality and precision of their products. BERICAP, one of the world’s leading plastic closure manufacturers, has seized its chance at an early stage and expanded to the Chinese market in 1997. Today, the company from Budenheim in Germany runs 2in China and is working on ongoing projects in several countries in Asia. However, it has not always been easy to convince Chinese packaging companies of their innovative, high quality products that naturally have their price.
Only one more closure supplier?
Steve Shao, Sales Manager of BERICAP China, went through this experience, as well. When he came to meet Liu Chen Bai, the Vice-President of Suzhou Zi Jin Plastic, to present BERICAP’s plastic closures, he did not at all get what one would call a warm welcome. “I thought to myself ‘I have my own plastic closures suppliers and I am really not short of plastic closures, what could he tell me?’”, remembers Liu. “But when he opened his Product Sample box, the Chinese manager was deeply impressed. She had never seen such a broad range of plastic closures before. “The second thing I thought was ‘Wow! Plastic closures can be made to be so precise! How can a plastic closure series be made so professionally?” Liu started a research about BERICAP wondering how the company had grown to its precision and innovative strength. Her results impressed her even more. “The beverages we drink, the edible oil and various sauces we consume, the lubricants we use in our vehicles – whenever you open the closures, you can see the inverted triangle B sign, the BERICAP mark. She realized that a company that had been able to expand its business to such a wide spectrum of industries would be the right partner for Suzhou Zi Jin Plastic, Ltd. This was the beginning of a success story that continues to this day.
Liu visited BERICAP plant several times and was – again – highly impressed. “We supply our jerry cans to flavors and fragrances customers who have strict requirements towards cleanliness. At a BERICAP production plant one will never see the workers use their hands to touch the products. During the whole production process, the high standard of automation makes us deeply feel ‘the beauty of technology’ and this gains our trust.” But not only trust is critical, it is also high quality. BERICAP’s secret is its uncompromising pursuit of precision. The closures’ dimensions are not measured in mm, but in 0.01mm, which is as thin as hair. Thanks to its sophisticated and precise production equipment and molds and the stringent control by technical, quality control and laboratory experts, BERICAP closures are beyond compare not only in the Chinese market – and have a higher price than most of the competitors’ products. Today, Liu Chen Bai understands the reasons. “In China, everybody in our branch knows that to fabricate a mold the cost is between RMB 100,000 to 200,000. But BERICAP molds are fabricated by their mold factory in Hungary where the costs are very high compared to Chinese conditions. The technology and materials used are all highly specified. And their staff carries out its work duties diligently and professionally day in and day out. This is a very important foundation to ensure high quality and quantity in mass production. That is why we are willing to pay the higher price. Even after a long time the quality of the products is still sustained.”
Consumer convenience makes the difference
One more reason for Suzhou Zi Jin Plastic, Ltd. to use BERICAP closures is the consumer convenience of the products. “Our R&D unit places a clear focus on consumer convenience aspects”, says Steve Shao. “The feeling of closing the closure is very good. We use a special design that secures the closure will not slant, but smoothly close down. In addition, our closures are comfortably to open, it even sounds good when the bridges break and the tamper ring connecting points break up together.” A using experience that was new to most Chinese consumers, Liu adds: “In the past, our end customers’ experience was that as long as there was no leakage they were fine. With our new high-quality closures we now have a real USP that meets the rising quality demands of Chinese consumers.”
Within the cooperation between Suzhou Zi Jin Plastic and BERICAP, this consumer orientation and the R&D efforts within the BERICAP group even saved a customer’s whole production. A Japanese customer of Suzhou Zi Jin Plastic, a producer of specialty fats in China, had faced a convenience problem for years that seemed unsolvable. As long as the end-user could open the closure with his hands, it leaked terribly. The problem was so enormous that the company decided to stop the production and leave the market. At this very moment, BERICAP took the time to understand the problem and the product and presented the solution: a closure with a long spout developed in Germany that can be closed very tightly with no leakage while being smooth to open. “It was unbelievably easy”, says Liu. “When the consumers want to pour out the specialty fat, they just pull out the spout and tear off a membrane. After pouring, the spout can be put back to its original position and the closure is tight again. My Japanese customer rejoiced and said: ‘Whatever you quote, we will not bargain! We will buy! This is the one we want!’. I am very proud, we and BERICAP together saved a customer’s production line and their whole business.”
Service level beyond compare – hand in hand for the customers
However, BERICAP’s service does not end after delivery. The closure specialist offers a competent technical customer service. Each BERICAP location worldwide has highly specialized staff available supporting clients with their vast know-how in the fields of capping performance improvement and capper evaluation. “The basis of our technical service and every single action we take is our triangle of success. It consists of the three corner posts closure, neck and application. If one of the technologies in the triangle is out of specification, the system will not work or will only work with a low safety margin. Therefore, it is essential to keep all three technologies within the specified tolerances to achieve the highest safety margin possible for the total system”, explains Shao. In order to be as close to its customers as possible, BERICAP’s technical service staff develops a close relationship to the key players at the plants and is ready for emergency visits by any time. This also applies when one of Suzhou Zi Jin Plastic’s customers has a problem with the closure. BERICAP experts support the company to find an appropriate solution.
This relationship among equals is highly appreciated by Liu Chen Bai: “I always have the feeling when offering customer services, we and BERICAP are so cohesively bound together, we do not regard one is providing the closure and the other providing the container. We are a customer service team and we are there to help them solve the problems.” And no doubts in “one more closure supplier” are left after five years of successful cooperation.