Eastern European Converter Continues Pioneering Ways

Chemosvit's flexible packaging operation includes just about every aspect of converting, and it all comes together for award-winning products.

Located near the High Tatras of Slovakia, Chemosvit A.S. ($70 million) is one of the top three flexible packaging converters in Eastern/Central Europe. The first to produce oriented polypropylene (OPP) film in the former socialist bloc (1977) and a present supplier to the huge European multinationals, the firm opened its doors in 1934.

Founded by Tomas Bata, of shoemaking fame, as a source of raw material (viscose) for hosiery production, the company's products soon included cellophane film (1936). The product line rapidly expanded to low-density polyethylene (LDPE), OPP, and multilayer barrier film manufacture (1992).

Today, Chemosvit is a privately owned holding company with 18 individual subsidiaries ranging from textiles (Chemosvit Fibrochem) to ski lift operation (Chemosvit Skichem). The firm was fully privatized in 1994 and has had no Slovak state participation since that time. Its flexible film division, which accounts for the lion's share of sales ($62 million), is headquartered in Svit, and has two operating facilities—Svit and Lutsk, Ukraine.

As one of the ten largest industrial operations in Slovakia, Chemosvit has more than 3,000 employees (1,200 in the flexible film division). It is a world-class flex-pack converter intent on expanding its product line into all of the "new Europe" as well as continuing to supply the rapidly growing consumer markets of Central/Eastern Europe.

During an exclusive Paper, Film & Foil CONVERTER visit, Mariàn Polàk, sales director for Western Europe, explained, "Because of declining volume and environmental concerns, our cellophane production was shut down in 1997. Although this accounted for 20 percent of our total company sales, we have replaced that lost volume successfully by raising the volumes of polyethylene, biaxially oriented polypropylene, and cast film."

He added that for existing accounts that require cellophane, Chemosvit purchases the material from UCB Cellophane.

Prepress Operation Is Key
Chemosvit's designa center is housed in a separate building dedicated to prepress. The state-of-the-art facility is ISO-9000 compliant, and it is the center of the company's flexible converting operation.

Marketing director Smiereak Anton explains that in one year the industrial design department converts hundreds of new graphic layouts and thousands of lithographies. Package designs are developed in-house or are supplied by the customer. These are processed by digital lithography on a diskette or in the form of a sketch. After various colors are approved, the digital data is recorded on an optical plate so the rotogravure cylinder can be prepared. (Printing is about 60% rotogravure and 40% flexographic.)

Anton says that this process enables 100% consistency between the customer's concept and the final cylinder without using film.

Transparent or reflection copies are provided on a high quality drum or surface scanner. A scanned copy is treated by electronic retouching on a Power Macintosh with a calibrated Barco monitor.

A new line produces photopolymer printing plates for the flexo operation, and rotogravure cylinders are manufactured under stringent ecological conditions. About 150 employees operate the prepress department, processing more than 3,000 designs annually. An estimated 10,000 digital rotogravure cylinders are handled.

Busy Film Production Operation
Another dedicated building on the Svit campus houses Chemosvit's OPP production. Three lines produce about 11,100 metric tons annually, and Chemosvit is the eleventh largest manufacturer of BOPP in all of Europe.

In Chemosvit's Ukrainian plant, one OPP line produces both BOPP film for packaging and high quality capacitor films for electrical engineering applications. Cast PP is manufactured on a Reifenhauser line at the Svit plant. A total of nine film slitters slit both BOPP and CPP film to the required customer dimensions.

LDPE film production is handled by four extruders, including two new Varex blown film coextruders from Windmoeller & Hoelscher. These completely computerized lines extrude, blow, cool, slit, and wind film at widths to 2,500 mm. Capable of running LDPE, MDPE, HDPE, ULDPE, and polyamide (nylon), they can produce coextruded three-layer films.

Other extruders in the plant include one from Kiefel and one from Alpine. Completing the operation are 28 smaller, in-house-designed extruders.

The company metallizes on two machines, one from Galileo and the other a newly installed Leybold AG Optimet that produces 1,250-mm-wide film and is said to be highly automated and fully computerized.

The gravure printing department includes a new ten-color press from Windmoeller & Hoelscher. Inks are purchased from a number of companies, including Sun Chemical and Akzo Nobel. Four Polytype laminators produce Chemosvit's range of composite structures, and 20 slitters complete the converting operation. Both the film manufacturing and converting facilities are ISO-9001 compliant.

A research and development department employs about 30 people, and an additional 5 are dedicated to field technical service.

Chemosvit is proud of the fact that in the Mobil Plastics Europe OPP awards for 1999, its entry for Nesquik cocoa powder was an OPPack winner. Nestle Foods (Slovakia) had been using a PET/aluminum foil/PE laminate to package its cocoa powder. By using Mobil Plastics' newly developed high-barrier OPP (35 MU 842), both barrier and esthetics reportedly are provided by a single film. The converted film was provided by Chemosvit and represents the first use of the new film in Slovakia. The printed 35 MU 842 was subsequently laminated to the company's Lamiten 116S LDPE film. (Chemosvit has an agreement with Mobil Plastics Europe in which they will convert Mobil film even though Chemosvit produces its own line of BOPP films.)

The Marketing Side
The firm has a highly organized sales/marketing department. About 30% of Chemosvit's production is sold in Slovakia, and 25% is sold in the Czech Republic (Chemosvit Bohemia A.S. opened in 1997). Poland accounts for an additional 20% followed by Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and Western Europe.

Sales volume is divided into food packaging (70%), nonfood packaging (20%), and nonpackaging (10%). Basic films account for 30% of sales share with 60% for converted films. Other products are in the 10% range. Key customers include Philip Morris, Nestle, Danone, Cadbury, Coca-Cola, and United Biscuits.

Vladimir Balong, financial director and vice chairman of the board of directors of Chemosvit, explains that since privatization, the company has overcome a series of crises, including "the Russian crisis that affected the whole region of Central and Eastern Europe, the devaluation of the Slovak crown, and fluctuating oil prices."

On the positive side, he notes, "The firm's production program is certified, higher wages are being paid to the employees, and our obligations toward the state, banks, and customers have been met."

Balong expresses the hope that business will increase in other parts of Europe and reach into new market areas. With the formation of Chemosvit Intl. in Amstelveen (the Netherlands), expansion into new European markets seems assured. Balong notes, however, that "the company's main focused area will be to keep the positions in our principal markets—Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, and Russia." He adds that Chemosvit welcomes the opportunity to discuss joint ventures and/or financial investment by a foreign company.

Chemosvit is a well-managed company with a dedicated and educated workforce. With strong positions in supplying huge multinational food firms, its quality and performance are a matter of record. All in all, Chemosvit looks like a continuing winner in the flexible packaging arena.
Supplier Information
UCB Cellophane, Somerset, U.K.; +44 1278 424 321; ucb-group.com

Esko-Graphics (formerly Barco Graphics), Vandalia, OH; 937/454-1721; esko-graphics.com

Windmoeller & Hoelscher Corp., Lincoln, RI; 401/333-2770; whcorp.com

Sun Chemical Corp., Fort Lee, NJ; 210/224-4600; sunchemical.com

Akzo Nobel Inks, Langhorne, PA; 215/750-9191; aninks.com

Reifenhauser, Ipswich, MA; 978/412-9700; reifenhauser.com

Kiefel Inc., Wrentham, PA; 508/384-1200; kiefel-extrusion.com

Hosokawa Alpine American, Natick, MA; 508/655-1123; halpine.com

Leybold Vacuum Products, Export, PA; 724/327-5700; leyboldvac.de/usa

Galileo Vacuum Systems, Granby, CT; 860/653-5911; galileovacuum.com

Polytype AG, Fribourg, Switzerland; +41 26 426 1111; polytype.com

Under the Loupe
About Slovakia—Making Its Mark
Certainly Slovakia (pop. 5.3 million) deserves its own chance in the spotlight. When it split with the Czech Republic in 1993, the other country got the tourist sights and most of the economic opportunity; Slovakia was left with the heavy industry and the less progressive government.

With its flood of visitors, however, the Czech Republic also acquired some of the less appealing aspects of a tourist hot spot, including overbooked hotels and predatory pricing. Slovakia, by contrast, is largely undeveloped, and its mountain villages maintain traditional ways of life. It still has much for travelers to discover.

While the country is not yet a Western-style tourist destination, it has taken the first steps toward accommodating travelers. Return visitors will notice the difference.

Geographically, Slovakia is mountainous and filled with picturesque valleys and streams. The eastern portion is dominated by giant steel mills, industrial complexes, and the resulting pollution. The central and western portions, however, are strikingly beautiful.

A new Slovak government has replaced the authoritarian regime, and extraordinary changes have taken place in just one year. The isolation into which the nation was plunged by the old government has ended. Slovakia is now a serious contender for EU membership, and its overall business climate has improved significantly.


Subscribe to PFFC's EClips Newsletter