Interview with Hans Geurtjens, managing director, and Weite Oldenziel, CEO of the Ofichem Group
As a specialist in printing and packaging, De Budelse closely follows the industry for which it prints packaging and leaflets, which is the pharmaceutical industry. Recently, the Ter Apel-based Ofichem Group took over bankrupt Leiden-based InnoGenerics. This has placed the only Dutch generic medicine manufacturer in the hands of the company that produces raw materials for medicines. De Budelse has worked with both companies in the past. This is a good reason for Hans Geurtjens to talk with the CEO, Weite Oldenziel, about developments in the sector.
Innogenerics is being relaunched under the name Ofimedicine. The main focus is on producing and expanding the current assortment of high-quality generic medicines with proprietary raw materials, with the aim of improving availability, reliability and sustainability. ‘After InnoGenerics’s bankruptcy, the entire production of tablets came to a halt,’ Weite Oldenziel quips. ‘It took a while before we could get back up to full speed. The production rate had to go up in order to achieve a positive result. Fortunately, we managed to retain many employees in the production process itself and many customers have also remained loyal to us.’’
Production to China
Weite Oldenziel has been the managing director/owner of the Ofichem Group for sixteen years which, with the launch of Ofimedicine, now comprises six businesses. The former pharmacist and doctorate in neurochemistry has concerns about the developments in the Dutch pharmaceutical industry. ‘Originally, Ofichem was a company that manufactured APIs (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients), the substances that cause the effect of medicines’, he continued. ‘At the turn of the century, we were struggling because eighty percent of world production was moving to China.
Parent company with subsidiaries
Born of necessity, the Ofichem Group embarked on other activities, which were brought under the flag of the parent company as separate operating companies over the years. ‘We are still engaged in commercial production,’ sums up Weite Oldenziel. ‘Beside this, we also focus on development and have 3 trading companies in-house. Everything we undertake happens around APIs. With the relaunch of InnoGenerics, we are also producing the medicine ourselves. In doing so, our ambition is to resolve the major shortage of generic medicines by expanding both our portfolio and customer base.’’
High volumes, short runs
While Weite Oldenziel does not know all the details, De Budelse and two of its subsidiaries have been acquainted for some time already. In the past, De Budelse produced packaging for Ofipharma and high volumes of information leaflets for InnoGenerics. ‘As a company, we specialise in high volumes, short runs’, Hans Geurtjens explains. ‘We believe that with just-in-time deliveries, we are contributing to reducing stocks in the chain. It makes no sense to stockpile packaging when, for example, laws and regulations change so frequently. In an ideal situation, our customers’ ERP system is aligned with ours. This allows us to respond to current changes, whereby high delivery reliability is an important prerequisite.’’
Let’s start with a blank sheet of paper and not judge each other on past experiences
Role of health insurers
Weite Oldenziel nods in agreement. In his view, it is not always easy for producers of both raw materials and medicines to respond to current events. For example, he considers it very unfortunate that health insurers play such a prominent role in healthcare. ‘As producers, we have no influence on the choices made by a health insurer,’ he explains. ‘In my experience the focus is always on the price. That troubles me, because I will gladly pay a little more for paracetamol or ibuprofen if I know those products come from the Netherlands.’ Hans Geurtjens could not agree more: ‘I am convinced that many Dutch people would make the same choice if the communication about this was much more transparent.’
According to Weite Oldenziel, the shortages of medicines in the Netherlands are taking on alarming proportions. It appears that this trend is unstoppable. As an example of this, various pharmaceutical companies have been fined by the Netherlands Health and Youth Care Inspectorate for failing to report impending medicine shortages in advance. ‘Vulnerability in the chain is increasing,’ he notes worriedly. ‘The number of registrations and potential producers per product is falling. There is a good chance that this will create scarcity. Health insurers have indicated that they do not see this as a problem as such, but I am convinced that the time is ripe to press the reset button.’’
Hans Geurtjens regularly pays a visit to InnoGenerics, which currently houses Ofimedicine, on behalf of De Budelse. The production environment was off limits, which is why he wonders if the production facilities are of sufficient high-quality in order to realise the ambitions. ‘We have a high-quality medicine plant in which a great deal has been invested in the past,’ Weite Oldenziel answers his question. ‘The average pharmacist in the Netherlands focuses very strongly on risk avoidance. The question is how useful this is. The plant has been audited many times for generic products such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. We have state-of-the-art equipment for these productions. If we are asked to produce for, for example, a new innovative, U.S. medicine under patent, we are not yet geared up for that.’’
Gap in artwork
Hans Geurtjens has found that working with the former InnoGenerics in times of acquisition is quite chaotic. In his view, checking the artwork in particular is a time-consuming factor. Weite Oldenziel recognises this. ‘In terms of the artwork, there really is a gap’, he explains. ‘This part is often neglected. Of course, it is not a good thing if someone from customer service does the artwork. We need to fill this vacancy as soon as possible. At the same time, it’s good to break existing patterns and engage with an experienced specialist such as De Budelse to brainstorm this issue.’’
The same language
For De Budelse, it is important to know what expertise is available in Leiden. ‘Implementing changes in artwork for pharma is in fact a difficult task,’ Hans Geurtjens notes from experience. ‘I wonder how useful it is sometimes. Consider, for example, the number of print runs required to build up packaging colours. It goes without saying that colour adjustments in packaging cannot be compared to changes in the medicine recipes. It is therefore good to step away from risk aversion in this area. It is much more important to speak the same language in order to take steps together.’ Weite Oldenziel nods in agreement. ‘I think it’s a good idea to continue talking to each other about this. I share your view that it is good to start with a blank sheet of paper and not judge each other on past experiences.’’
What customers say: Ecobliss, market leader in pharmaceutical and retail packaging
Ecobliss is the inventor of the environmentally-friendly cold seal packaging technology and Locked4Kids, the patented and certified childproof solution. The company has set up separate divisions for pharmaceutical and retail packaging. With regard to the pharmaceutical wallet packaging for blister strips and the Locked4Kids packaging, Ecobliss collaborates with De Budelse and KDS Stansvormen in Weert.
According to Commercial Director and co-owner Marijn van Utteren, Ecobliss began as a small home printing company. After inventing the technology for the environmentally-friendly cold seal packaging, the company from the Limburg town of Echt grew substantially. ‘In order to meet the rising demand for pharmaceutical packaging, we sought to expand the supply chain,’ is how Marijn van Utteren starts his story. ‘Via our supplier KDS Stansvormen we came into contact with De Budelse. Both companies had already established a satisfactory collaboration.’
Blister strips with cardboard packaging
Most Ecobliss customers opt for the sustainable and handy blister strips. ‘These strips come in a special cardboard packaging,’ continues Marijn van Utteren. ‘This type of packaging is important for two reasons. Firstly, it protects the blister strips and, secondly, it displays additional information concerning the medication. We engage the services of De Budelse for the printing of this packaging.’
Furthermore, Ecobliss developed the unique childproof packaging Locked4Kids. Children will not succeed in opening this packaging. Adults, however, can easily do it. An ideal solution if the medication to be taken could prove hazardous to children. ‘The Locked4Kids boxes contain a plastic tray in which the blister strips are secured,’ explains Marijn van Utteren. ‘As a user, you must pull this tray outwards, as you would a drawer. To achieve this, you have to simultaneously press the two pressure points. Children do not understand how this way of opening a box works.’
the box contains two pressure points, which must be pressed simultaneously, children do not understand how this opening works
A solution for each packaging job
Ecobliss handles the packing processes of a large number of clients and successfully so. In view of size, these companies vary from small to large pharmaceutical companies worldwide. In addition, Ecobliss GMP is certified where the packing of medicines is concerned. The company makes unique products, both with a cold seal or according to the Locked4Kids system. ‘For many pharmaceutical companies we have become a valuable supplier,’ concludes Marijn van Utteren. ‘After all, we don’t just supply the materials and required packing machines. We also offer clients the option of handling their packing activities for them. In other words, materials printed by De Budelse literally travel all over the world.’
Good coordination and collaboration
Marijn van Utteren is very pleased with the collaboration with De Budelse, which has only become closer since their first contact in 2019. ‘Ecobliss and De Budelse are medium-sized companies that consider quality of the utmost importance. On that basis we selected De Budelse. Moreover, it’s great to have De Budelse nearby as both a supplier and sparring partner. It also makes coordinating matters quite pleasant. Important fact: De Budelse has a “put your shoulder to the wheel and do what needs to be done” mentality, as does Ecobliss. This creates a great mutual bond as well.’
The words of a customer: Willem Koster (COO Vitals)
‘De Budelse has lived up to high expectations as an innovative and sustainable printer’
Vitals ambition is to develop the most progressive food supplements. The quality and scientific substantiation of the ingredients are central to this. This ambition also includes a conscious choice for sustainability. “As a company, we are a strong supporter of the circular economy,” says Willem Koster, COO of Vitals. “That is why we opt for optimally recyclable packaging, and we strive for a lower CO2 footprint. That’s how we came to De Budelse, who now prints our bilingual packaging on Paperwise cardboard.”
Vitals never stands still. The company is continuously expanding its range, improving products and entering new markets. For example, we wished to further market our food supplements in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. “We seized the opportunity of these expansion plans to make a step towards sustainability,” Willem Koster continues.
Biobased containers and boxes from agricultural waste
When choosing packaging, Vitals faced an important consideration: what is the most sustainable solution? “We opted for new, recyclable, biobased plastic containers,” Willem Koster explains. “They are packaged in boxes made of PaperWise cardboard. It is a CO2-neutral product made from plant residues left over after harvesting. Using agricultural waste as a raw material for paper and cardboard is environmentally friendly, and it gives farmers an extra source of income.”
we opt for optimally recyclable packaging and we strive for a lower CO2 footprint
Vitals inquired at PaperWise which printer was suitable for printing this sustainable cardboard packaging. A referral brought the company into contact with De Budelse. Willem Koster is very pleased with the collaboration. “De Budelse already had experience with PaperWise cardboard and seemed to have advanced collaboration possibilities. That was the deciding factor for us in choosing them. And let’s be honest: De Budelse has more than lived up to the high expectations as an innovative and sustainable printer. Not only do they print the boxes in two languages, but they also arrange for the printing of the associated labels. And they took us on board from the very first design. It is really great for Vitals to have a single point of contact for all printed matter.”
Willem Koster notices that the collaboration with De Budelse has made further progress in the possibilities of managing files, ordering, storing and delivering printed matter. “In the long run, we will certainly make use of these opportunities,” he reflects on the future. “We would like to be more self-sufficient. For example, it works much more effectively if we adjust the designs, prepare them for production and place the orders via the automated system, without intervention from third parties. Once we have control by ourselves, it will be child’s play to make small adjustments and place orders.”
Vitals is pleased that De Budelse also attaches great importance to the unique combination of ambition and sustainability. “We are not a marketing company that sells hot air,” concludes Willem Koster. “Ambition is our starting point. We want to develop progressive food supplements that meet a need. The information we provide is crucial. A product will not be included in our range without a solid scientific basis. In addition, we want to take care of people’s health and the health of our planet. It’s great that those values are also shared by De Budelse.”
♻️ De Budelse and sustainability: a successful one-two punch
Sustainability is high on the social agenda. A growing number of companies are introducing more nuance to this important theme. De Budelse also aims to take into account the environment and future generations. Sustainability is therefore not only firmly embedded in our business processes. We also have an eye for people and the environment when choosing raw materials and suppliers.
The question is: how sustainable is De Budelse? High time to take a closer look at sustainability from 3 perspectives.
Innovative response to trends
The pharmacy wholesaler Spruyt hillen supports pharmaceutical and medical professionals and organisations with a unique combination of products, services and concepts. This innovative company enjoys tapping into the latest developments and trends. Spruyt hillen also likes leading the way in environmentally friendly choices for packaging and printing. De Budelse has been playing an important role in this leading position for over 10 years.
Strip folding boxes made of PaperWise cardboard
In 2021, Spruyt hillen will continue on its environmentally friendly path. The sustainable packaging line is getting a new addition with strip folding boxes made of PaperWise cardboard. By choosing PaperWise, Spruyt hillen compensates even more for its CO² emissions. Naturally, De Budelse has been commissioned to print these strip folding boxes.
The decision to use environmentally friendly strip folding boxes made of PaperWise cardboard is truly innovative. Human Healthcare packaging is traditionally made of white cardboard. This choice is mainly dictated by the clinically white colour of the cardboard. Spruyt hillen is now offering customers an environmentally friendly alternative. The new packaging is not gleaming white, but it does meet all existing conditions. And most importantly, it contributes to a better environment. Pharmacists can order these boxes in various sizes and use them as secondary packaging for medicines.
In 2020, pharmaceutical company Basic Pharma from Geleen issued a tender for the packaging of nasal sprays. After several tender rounds, De Budelse came out on top and was awarded the contract to print a certain amount of packaging for each order. ‘As companies of a similar size, we fit well together’, says purchasing manager Jan-Joris Mertens enthusiastically. ‘We want to be of value to each other, and that works very well.’
As a pharmaceutical company, Basic Pharma mainly focuses on the development, production and sale of generic medicines. The company is located on the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Geleen. From this hotspot for innovative companies, over one hundred employees provide a full range of services for various pharmaceutical products and services. ‘Each product group is composed of a number of specialists’, continues Jan-Joris Mertens. ‘My colleagues take care of development, printing and operational matters. For the past year and a half, I’ve been responsible within the team for the purchasing of packaging materials and raw materials.’
Knowledge of packaging
Based on the experiences of a colleague’s previous development projects, Jan-Joris Mertens has come to know De Budelse fairly well. Basic Pharma launched a tender for the packaging of nasal sprays. 11 companies received invitations to submit tenders. This also included a number of international companies because logistics is likely to play an important role. ‘Price plays a decisive role in such tenders’, explains the experienced procurement manager. ‘However, it is also very important to us that a supplier knows what is involved in pharmaceutical product packaging.’
‘De Budelse is a perfect extension of our own supply chain’
After the first round, 3 suppliers remained. De Budelse was one of the lucky companies to receive a visit from Basic Pharma for a quality check on location. ‘A company visit is important to get a good feel for the supplier’, explains Jan-Joris Mertens. If you look at everything covered in a tender, De Budelse has a clear edge. But of course we also like to see the business processes up close and get answers to crucial questions about order management, good manufacturing practices (GMPs) and delivery. After all, the transition from an existing to a new supplier should be as smooth as possible.’
Basic Pharma made a conscious choice for De Budelse as its supplier of nasal spray packaging. Ultimately, the international nature of the supplier does not play a major role. ‘De Budelse speaks our language, knows the Dutch culture of entrepreneurship and is situated locally’, Jan-Joris Mertens emphasises. This is much more important when it comes to transitioning quickly. De Budelse guaranteed that our machines could process the boxes well. And they could meet the agreed delivery times and ordered quantities. Basic Pharma works based on the make-to-orderprinciple. So it is crucial that we meet the agreements we have with our customers. This is one of Basic Pharma’s greatest strengths.’
Our collaboration with De Budelse is excellent! Jan-Joris Mertens jokingly says that he has little contact with account manager Ben Vossen. In his estimation, that’s a good sign. Of course, clear agreements were made in the beginning about the loading of pallets and the delivery of samples for quality control. ‘In practice, De Budelse is a perfect extension of our supply chain’, concludes Jan-Joris Mertens. ‘We will certainly continue our cooperation into the future. De Budelse is also an excellent partner for small print runs. They have everything. They also print leaflets, and insert them in the packaging. Basic Pharma needs a partner like that.’
The famous Polaroid brand has begun its second life. From its beating heart in Enschede, the ambitious company is once again attracting much attention. There are 300 employees involved in this comeback worldwide.
A factory in the Far East produces the cameras and the film packs roll off the assembly line in Enschede. It goes without saying that these light-sensitive film packs require professional packaging. Purchaser Alfons Mulder of Polaroid asked De Budelse to share their thoughts regarding a suitable solution. ‘We clicked so well that we have entered into a strategic partnership.’
The history of Polaroid
The brand name Polaroid evokes positive associations for many people. In the 1970s and 1980s, the brand experienced its heyday. The instant cameras were very popular with a large section of the public. After all, once you took a photograph the camera immediately presented you with a print.
‘The digital age heralded the demise of Polaroid’, states Alfons Mulder. ‘When the company was as good as bankrupt, a number of former employees took over the rights. Putting Polaroid back on the map seemed like a mission impossible. The rescue attempt, however, was successful: Like a phoenix, Polaroid rose from its ashes.’
Analogue embraces digital
Polaroid’s iconic cameras have been given a modern look and the analogue technology is still the same as forty years ago. ‘Strangely enough, young people are discovering the added value of the analogue camera en masse’, continues Alfons Mulder. ‘By linking analogue and digital, we added a nice gimmick. A special app allows you to link a photo you have taken to a video and bring it to life. All you have to do to play the video is point your smartphone at the photo. Thanks to this link, it’s again cool to use Polaroid. At parties, for instance, or during events, concerts or weddings.’
In the interests of quality and continuity, Polaroid does not want to be dependent on just one supplier for packaging. In the search for a second packaging specialist, the Enschede-based company ended up in Southeast Brabant. ‘We were familiar with De Budelse because of its tailor-made solutions for pharmaceutical companies’, Alfons Mulder states while explaining his choice. ‘Packaging of medicines and film packs have much common ground. The packaging is quite tricky and requires a special way of folding and gluing.’
Thinking of solutions
Initially, Polaroid opted for standard packaging. In practice, however, it didn’t work. In consultation with the Product Development department of De Budelse, the focus changed to a new type of packaging. ‘The factory in Enschede is first and foremost a production company,’ Alfons Mulder explains. ‘With over 4 million film packs a year we can’t afford a hitch. There were, of course, the usual start-up problems but we managed to solve those together.’
Expanding the collaboration
Alfons Mulder is very pleased with the collaboration. ‘The Budelse has its organisational affairs well in order, is equipped with up-to-date machinery and has the necessary environmental certificates’, he says enthusiastically. ‘Polaroid and De Budelse are well matched.
We don’t want a supplier who only erupts into action when we ask for it. We need a partner like De Budelse who is flexible and contributes to solutions actively. So, in the years to come, Polaroid will consciously opt for De Budelse.’
It has been an exciting time for Ace Pharmaceuticals in Zeewolde. Within the period of one and a half year, they substantially expanded their business premises, workforce and brand products. ‘We, both staff and machinery, have been fully operational since 1 January 2020 to respond to the specific needs of pharmacists and patients even better than before,’ says Purchase & Warehouse Manager Eric Morel.
Ace Pharmaceuticals has grown because of the production of smaller volumes of registered and unregistered drugs. On the one hand, the pharmaceutical company fulfils the necessary medical needs of a small patient group. And on the other, they meet the specific demand of more than 750 (and a growing number of) pharmacies through the preparations they supply.
Unique: Everything in-house
’That’s our strength,’ says Eric. ‘We produce volumes that are of no interest to the large pharmaceutical companies but respond very directly and specifically to the needs of a small patient group or pharmacy. We do everything ourselves; from research, development, registration and production to analysis and sales. This makes us unique in the Netherlands.’
Eric shares how Ace Pharmaceuticals recently took a big leap forward. ”Our factory grew 2.5 times in size and our workforce increased from 70 to 150 employees. This substantial growth resulted in the development of more than three hundred new products and yes … they all had to be provided with labels, folding boxes and leaflets. Thankfully De Budelse, supplier par excellence, immediately offered their help.”
Strong in appearance
How does it work if you have to provide such an extensive, new range with packaging and leaflets in a relatively short time? “In consultation with De Budelse we’ve devised a system for this,” Eric replies. ‘We work on the basis of an artwork and text format. Much was achieved in a short period of time and under great pressure. Partly thanks to the flexibility of De Budelse. Everything was available before 1 January.’
We produce volumes that are of no interest to the large pharmaceutical companies.
Eric acknowledges that De Budelse contributes to the strength of Ace Pharmaceuticals. ‘Their advice on the materials to be used, the finishing and layout have led to sound packaging that not only makes a strong and professional impression but also looks good. They shared their thoughts and ideas with us and it was that type of empathy that helped them translate our wishes into excellent packaging.‘
Ace Pharmaceuticals is GMP certified as is the case with De Budelse.
This means, for example, that the pharmaceutical company continuously submits new product information for packaging and leaflets. In its turn, De Budelse takes care of the incoming inspection: Once the leaflets have been printed and folded, one example of each print run is checked in detail by a special scanner. This to ensure that everything is 100% in accordance with the information provided.
What happens now?
Is Ace Pharmaceuticals also going to use De Budelse’s showpiece where the reduction of stock is concerned? Eric laughs. ‘That’s the next phase. We will investigate as to how we can organise our order and stock control more efficiently in the future. For the time being, we’re just going to let the dust settle on all the frenzy, the expansion and changes. It was an exciting period.’
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