Schubert-Consulting’s Michael Graf discusses product packaging processes

What are you currently working on at Schubert-Consulting?
What keeps us very busy at the moment is what is called Connecting, i.e. bringing together the various actors involved in the entire packaging process. This starts with the various customer services and extends to external partners. When a commissioned architect designs a modern factory hall on a greenfield site, he must know from the outset the cubic meters of machinery involved, the planned layout and the personnel requirements. Otherwise, the machines may have to be adapted to the hall and the production processes can no longer be implemented optimally. Our Schubert-Consulting team helps bring the parties involved together at the start of a project and find a common solution that makes the actual packaging process as efficient as possible.

The theme of packaging development is also perfectly in line with current trends. Here above all, Connect is absolutely necessary because today’s packaging must meet many requirements that go well beyond the protection and transport of products. Think recyclability, improved point-of-sale marketing, or market trends like product individualization and e-commerce. Together with all partners, we can create economic added value through the development of new packaging, which is generated along the entire process chain, all the way to the consumer.

At what stage do customers turn to you and why?
More often than not, we provide support when manufacturers are planning a new packaging process and implementation becomes difficult – when they are stuck in a project that is not progressing as it should. This often involves ideas and goals that go beyond a single packaging machine as a solution, as upstream and downstream processes strongly influence production. In such cases, it is important to take a close look at the entire supply and production chain in order to identify and eliminate possible bottlenecks. That’s why we specialize in the strategic planning of business processes and objectives, especially for the fast-moving consumer goods and pharmaceutical industries. Our clients are very international: we offer our services in several regions of the globe ranging from German-speaking countries to Europe and North America.

You were on board from the start. How was Schubert-Consulting born at the time?
Before founding the company in 2011, I had gained experience as a senior project manager, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry. One of my responsibilities was to prepare validations for the complex packaging processes used for pharmaceutical products. This gave me the opportunity to familiarize myself in depth with the topic of quality assurance. At the same time, a new business area emerged at Schubert Packaging Systems, at that time still under the name “Engineering Consulting”. Since then, Peter Gabriel and I have gradually developed the estate. In 2016, the company was renamed Schubert-Consulting.

Our first projects were born from the customer’s wish that we accompany the investment and the realization of a new packaging machine throughout the project – also as a service provider. Customer support continues to be one of our main consulting pillars. From the beginning, however, my goal was also to translate the expertise acquired from other industries into the sectors served by Schubert. I remember the beginnings of Schubert Consulting, where we could make very fast confectionery packaging machines even more efficient for our customers with the right quality management. Because reducing waste throughout the packaging process is and remains an important factor to this day. We are not only talking about the robots in the packaging machine, but also about the pre-processes such as the baking ovens in which the product to be packaged is produced.

How has your portfolio evolved over the years?
The next topic, alongside quality assurance, was logistics, including track and trace functions. It’s more relevant now than ever, as consumers want to know which farm their milk comes from on the breakfast table. Schubert-Consulting’s range of services has therefore expanded from projects in existing factories and halls to simulations and new planning on greenfield sites. The most important working tool for us is an overview of packaging processes as well as line integration, customization and customer advice on automation, digitalization and sustainability. For each project we undertake, we form a new team which not only consists of one or more of our own employees, but also includes collaborations with universities, suppliers, associations such as the VDMA (Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau eV) and other institutions, as required. Within the Schubert Group, we collaborate strategically across several business units.

At the heart of Schubert-Consulting, however, is our general independence from other Schubert companies. We attach great importance to independent advice from the manufacturer! This means that anyone using our services always has several different process solutions to choose from. The reason we nevertheless carry the Schubert name at Schubert-Consulting with some pride is the packaging expertise we can demonstrate, resulting from decades of experience.

What has been your experience with consulting and what are your clients saying?
Many customers are under intense competitive and time pressures. Few have sufficient in-house expertise to implement new packaging processes or improve existing ones. The feedback we receive is always positive. We solve the problems, we launch the production and we also make it more profitable. A key factor is also to find solutions that go far into the future for the customer. That’s why we always try to clarify how and where a client wants to develop and grow. This sometimes translates into evolving projects that are gradually implemented over several years.

All of this can only be achieved in a relationship based on trust and collaboration. And that is why personal contact, thorough preliminary discussions and the creation of a real partnership are the absolute prerequisites for a successful project. And for us, speaking to our customers is above all understanding our customers. Listening, always asking different questions and anticipating, changing perspectives to our customers’ customers. For example, if you have to unpack a medicine and struggle with the packaging, you are less likely to be compliant while taking it. With this in mind, our motto has changed over time from “accompanying customers” to “understanding customers”.

How do you lead Schubert-Consulting into the future, especially with regard to the key issue of sustainability?
We have been working on this for some time and have adopted the ‘Rethink’ aspect of the 5Rs on sustainability as our guiding principle. Rethinking conventional approaches is exactly what is needed for the transformation to a more sustainable world, and that is 100% what Schubert-Consulting is all about. We are broadening our view again and looking at the process practically from A to Z – from raw product to final consumer and, of course, recycling. This is based on the approach of keeping processes so stable that there are no releases throughout the process chain. Because sustainability comes largely from efficiency.

From this broader perspective, it follows that we also want to enter other niches, start-ups and sectors. We are committed to being pioneers, to creating a think tank for the future, among others with alliances and experts from a wide range of fields and institutions, such as the Fraunhofer Institute, research groups , manufacturers, etc. In doing so, we strive to bring our clients’ visions to lasting success. I am thrilled when our clients embark on their new projects with enthusiasm, because much more can be achieved than they initially thought possible. Premium added value, inspiration for future developments we can give them and financial success for both parties – this is my goal and this is ultimately what makes consulting fun.

Comments are closed.