Reynolds subsidiary in Spain benefits from technology transfer

Grafiba SA, a subsidiary of Reynolds Metals Co., started as a manual converter of paper bags and has grown into one of the first firms in Spain to use four-color flexo printing.

Owned by US flex-pack giant, Reynolds Metals Co., the only European converting plant is located 15 miles from downtown Barcelona, Spain.

While Reynolds Metals is one of the top converters stateside, its wholly owned subsidiary, Grafiba SA, is a modest operation producing excellent quality materials aimed at an almost total domestic market. Yet, despite its size, well-worn equipment and isolation from the more mainstream and global markets, there is a sense of urgency and esprit de corps that is a lacking in other larger flex-pack converters.

While attending the Hispack '95 exhibition in Barcelona, I visited Grafiba SA and toured its production facilities. My contacts were Granaro Daroca, director general of Grafiba SA, and his assistant, Emer Clancey. Both provided me with a true insight into the flexible-packaging industry in Spain and its overall relation to the global consumer. As a Reynolds subsidiary, I was also interested in just how Grafiba's American parent transferred technology abroad.

Reynolds Metals Co.'s interest in the Spanish market began in 1955 with the advent of INASA, an aluminum rolling mill. At about the same time, INGOSA was also purchased. Originally called Industrias Gromaroz, the latter began operations in 1926 as the exclusive manufacturing franchise in Spain at Sidac Cellophane.

Its main activities were the letterpress printing of cellophane and the manual conversion of paper bags and it was among the first firms in Spain to use four-color flexo printing. Ingosa was sold by Reynolds Metals in 1993, leaving Grafiba SA, which was purchased in 1988 by INASA to convert flex-pack, as the only Reynolds Metals Co.'s converting operation in Europe.

Aluminum foil, supplied by INASA, is converted into a wide range of flexible laminates by Grafiba. A major element in its business is lidding stock for yogurt and laminate closures for beer, champagne and wine bottles. The company has a 21,500 sq. m factory in San Cugat and about 80% of its output is distributed in Spain with the remaining 20% to Germany and Finland.

At the time of my visit, a Reynolds Metals technical expert from Richmond, VA, was scheduled to visit Grafiba to introduce pharmaceutical foil specifications in the firm. The overall goal is to use Grafiba as a manufacturing plant for the marketing of foil specifications to the entire European market.

With limited research and development support, the emphasis on the pharmaceutical industry appears to be quite misplaced.

Specifications are rigid and there's tough competition from other better well-equipped flex-pack converters in Europe. It would seem that more emphasis should be spent on the upgrading of overall equipment and total European market coverage.

Grafiba has about 80 employees with 60 in the plant and 20 support personnel. Of the support personnel, four work in the lab and four work in sales.

The plant is ISO 9002 certified, and there is one person designated to writing and implementing ISO procedures. Total quality management is strictly followed with several Grafiba personnel attending the international TQM course offered by Phil Gordon Associates.

In the Grafiba plant, there is one Rotomec extruder with two Dolci heads. Two adhesive laminators by Pagendarm-Germany, and two 10-color rotogravure presses by Andreotti. Grafiba uses waterborne and solventborne inks.

Grafiba products are used in the dairy, confectionery, breakfast cereal, dehydrated soup, pasta, powdered dessert, beverage, tobacco and sugar markets. Its full range of paper/polyethylene/foil/polyethylene stock is widely used for dehydrated soups and magazine inserts.

The firm's attempts at producing polyethylene terephthalate/adhesive/foil/polyethylene terephthalate for house iusulation is being thwarted by the worldwide shortage of polyethylene-terephthalate film. This shortage is counterbalancing the European trend toward the substitution of plastic films for aluminum foil.

New customer trial runs are produced on full-scale manufacturing equipment.

This is an expensive way to introduce new specifications, and it's quite different from the large pilot plant present at the Richmond, VA, plant. It would seem that an integral part of Grafiba expansion should also include a well-equipped pilot plant staffed by trained personnel.

Present Grafiba customers include Dannon for yogurt lidding stock, cigarette foil for Spain's leading cigarettes, Fortunna, with 30 production plants, and Warner Lambert's Spanish production for Trident, Clorets and Dentyne.

The Eco Pack, a flexible paper/low-density polyethylene bag used throughout Europe is also produced by Grafiba. The material is supplied to Hackmann, Germany, for overall European distribution. It's widely used in Spain for all types of powdered detergents.


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