Do you know the story of Huhtamaki? Huhtamaki’s Fiber Technology Centre in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands successfully meets the rising demand for innovative sustainable alternatives to plastic. But what happens after designing these fiber-based products (and machines that make them)? You’ve guessed it. The packaging needs to be produced. Big time. How did interim manufacturing manager André Seldeslachts help Huhtamaki meet demand? Can efficiency and sustainability go hand in hand?
André, what is your background?
I’m an interim operational excellence specialist. This may sound a bit technocratic, but it is very much a people-oriented work. I help to create a culture of continuous improvement. Because, if people feel well and productive, they will perform better.
Can you tell us about your work at Huhtamaki?
I started here in 2022, when Been Management Consulting was supporting the Fiber Technology Centre in Leeuwarden . This team of smart engineers and designers created all kinds of new fiber-based products and the machines to produce them. Huhtamaki produces these new products too. For big brands that have high quality standards, for both products and production processes. That’s when they asked me for help.
“When Huhtamaki needed help with their production facilities, we introduced André to them. Now, he’s key player in their team.”
Marine Clément, transformation expert.
What was your role?
I advised and trained Huhtamaki’s support team in setting up the production lines for these new products. How can they measure the efficiency of the operations? How do they perform a root-cause analysis? How can they increase performance? All to help monitor and improve operational performance. Then, I stayed on as project manager for one of Huhtamaki’s production facilities in Germany. With a team of support engineers. Originally, the site produced plastic food packaging. Now, it switches to the new fiber-based products, such as lids for paper coffee cups. We introduce this machine by machine with a plan to continuously improve the performance.
Sounds good! What’s the secret behind this success?
Creating a positive culture, together. That’s the key. I always involve the people from the shop floor. Asking them for solutions and improvements. People are motivated to improve the way they work. You just need to give them the tools and structure, marking sure everyone is aligned and focused. This is also typical Huhtamaki. Together, we work from ideas to designs and from prototypes to production. Everything happens in one company, which is unique.
How about sustainability, what role does that play?
At Huhtamaki we embed sustainability in everything we do. Packaging has a fundamental role in building sustainable and resilient food systems globally. Well-designed packaging can help, by preserving food for longer, preventing food waste and improving food safety. For me in my role, efficiency and sustainability go hand in hand. In a continuous improvement culture, people work proactively to make a difference on financial, social, and ecological level.