And the winner is ... Husky
Every 10 seconds the injection molding machine opens and spits out a remarkable structure: in front a screw closure made of transparent plastic, at the rear a mold roughly 10 centimeters in length. “These parts are called preforms,” says Stefano Mirti. “In a second stage the rear part is heated and then blown up,” explains the employee at Husky Injection Molding Systems. And the 1.5-liter coke bottle is finished.
Mirti is the General Manager for Sales & Service in Western Europe. The injection molding specialist based in Canada, with production centers worldwide, has resided in Düdelingen since 1985 – unknown to most Luxembourgers, however, since the customers come only from industry: Manufacturers of soft drinks, vodka, mineral water, ketchup and detergent need packaging. And Husky supplies the molds. “Usually the bottle is more expensive than the contents,” Mirti says with a grin. The second pillar of the Group is the heating ducts that inject the plastic into the molds. In addition Husky provides all services related to injection molding.
Up to 250 million preforms
The molds from Husky have to withstand a lot. For example, up to 250 million preforms are manufactured each year in such a PET preform system. “Even a tiny problem here would mean a catastrophe,” Mirti notes.
But he can afford to joke – in Düdelingen everything runs perfectly. And on top of that his company has received a coveted prize: the Luxembourg American Chamber of Commerce Business Award. On October 20th Mirti will receive the award on behalf of the work force from the hands of Grand Duke Guillaume at a gala dinner in New York. Several hundred guests will be attending the event, held every two years.
The purpose of the award is to strengthen the trade relations in existence for decades between the USA and Luxembourg, and to promote the development of the company in the USA. “Of course, we’re very pleased,” beams Mirti. “We’ll be discussing the award at our monthly meeting with the employees.”
For Mirti, Luxembourg is not just a great location because it’s his home. “Our work here is very automated. We’re one of the most efficient factories in the entire Group. And on the management level Luxembourg is considered a springboard to the Executive Board of the Group,” the engineer confides.
John Galt, President and CEO of Husky, agrees: “Husky Injection Molding Systems has resided in Luxembourg since 1985. That has geographic advantages. Moreover, the employees here are multilingual, the government is flexible, the quality of life is high and the economy is healthy.” As the facts show: the 750 employees in Luxembourg have altogether 20 nationalities and speak 26 languages.
Today Husky is present throughout the world; from Canada to Moscow and Singapore. Around 40 service centers serve customers in over a hundred countries. Products are manufactured in Canada, the USA, Luxembourg and China. More than 70 percent of all plastic bottles worldwide come from Husky. Besides production, the Luxembourg location is also responsible for service and sales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “We maintain a 24-hour hotline so we can answer customer inquiries at any time,” Mirti explains. Parts are also shipped around the clock. “Our customs clearance is so exemplary that we’ve become a model for other companies,” the General Manager reports. Goods totaling 20 million euros in value are stockpiled.
Mirti next takes us through the factory, which has been located for 25 years in the “Riedchen” industrial district next to the Düdelingen freeway. It’s evident that the company received the award for many reasons. In a giant hall work is carried out behind closed curtains. “Here we’re setting up a production line for a customer,” Mirti explains. This will take a few weeks. Development requires more than a year, followed by half a year of testing. Ultimately the machine will be producing up to 300 million parts each year. Husky doesn’t sell everything, but advises on the assembly of such complex constructions.
Meanwhile the customer structure has changed. “We have more and more detergent manufacturers selling one liter of concentrate instead of 5 liters. And they need good-looking packaging,” Mirti explains. At the end of the month the Husky Group will be presenting a new machine platform for medical technology as one new trade fair item, among others.
The models are constantly changing. Worldwide there are about 10,000 different bottles and containers for which Husky has produced the molds: from the 0.5-liter mineral water bottle to detergent packaging. Large customers like Unilever, Coca Cola and Procter & Gamble demand the highest quality.
“Of course, this poses a challenge to our employees. It’s not easy to find good people,” Mirti notes. The people working at Husky can have liquid refreshment at the “Main Street Café” during their breaks, or work out in the fitness room under a trainer’s supervision. A physician is available once a week. The factory operates between five and seven days a week, so the mood of the employees should be good.
Whoever has suggestions for improvement can present his or her ideas on a monitor. “We’re also committed to SOS villages. As an employer, we have to go with the times and meet the needs of people,” says Mirti, who’s been on board since 1995.
Recycling also plays a role. According to Mirti, more than half the PET bottles are recycled in Europe. “But most end up in clothing,” he notes. Husky tries to produce increasingly lighter and sturdy containers. “Developments at Husky are aimed at simplifying the recycling of PET bottles. The first industrial tests are already in progress,” Mirti reports. It’s still exciting ...