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PRODUCT DESIGN AND LIFECYCLE MANAGEMENT Sustainable product design and lifecycle management have long-term impacts on the environment. By optimizing products to use more sustainable materials, offer more durability or increase efficiency, we can help reduce landfill waste and emissions. TPG’s Research and Development (R&D) organization has experts across our facilities with in-depth knowledge and experience in engineering, product safety and quality. In 2021, we invested approximately $477,245 in R&D and product innovation. We fuel our innovation pipeline by leveraging our team’s 150+ years of combined expertise and knowledge in packing solutions. We also frequently engage with industry and academic institutions, attend key tradeshows and collaborate with customers. Our apprenticeship program enables us to attract emerging top talent interested in developing their technical knowledge, read more about this in the People section.
We are consistently delivering cutting-edge solutions for customers and readily expanding our portfolio. In 2021, our portfolio consisted of 30 products (12 FAWEMA machines, 8 HDG machines and 10 WOLF machines) across more than 65 countries. Key innovation highlights from the year include:
In 2022, we initiated an internal program called Green Machine, which requires our R&D team to assess product innovation based on three sustainability pillars: ecological, economic and social impact. By considering the overall environmental impact, we can develop and optimize our machines to deliver higher performance. This includes:
From 2017-2020, we partnered with Kansas State University’s Department of Grain Science and Industry (KSU) to help advance education and research in the packaging industry. We provide various TPG machines for students and industry professionals, enabling them to take training courses on packaging. While we paused this program at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we plan to re-initiate this partnership in 2023.
Collaborating with CustomersWe aspire to be a “one-stop-shop” for customers with our wide variety of machines and services. Through a breadth of offerings, we help solve complex problems relating to sustainability, performance, safety and more. As a part of our innovation process, we frequently collaborate with customers. We work with them to create custom prototypes and solutions that meet their unique needs, and then test and conduct product trials together. We have specific onsite locations reserved for product demonstrations and trials. We also help customers comply with existing or emerging laws and regulations such as efficiency standards, food safety and quality standards, the Single Use-Plastics Directive and more. Sustainability is a core focus in our customer collaborations. We are proud to have helped customers achieve the following:
Life cycle managementOur high-quality machines are known for their durability, with a typical lifespan of more than 20 years. Where possible, we refurbish older machines by retrofitting them with new sealing technology that consumes less energy while delivering the same performance. This aftermarket solution prevents our machines from going to landfills while providing customers with a lower cost alternative than purchasing new technologies. We aim to reduce the environmental impact associated with machine manufacturing, from raw material extraction to energy usage associated with development. Therefore, we are starting the process to conduct life cycle assessments, which can take place as early as 2023, starting with HDG machines. Our pilot project to conduct a holistic life cycle assessment of an HDG packaging machine identifies the environmental impacts associated with material extraction, machine manufacturing, energy consumption in the 20-year use phase, and endof-life treatment. This assessment will allow us to target where the greatest impacts occur and develop further sustainability improvements.
Advancing the circular economy by eliminating packaging waste.
Our products enable customers to use greener packaging materials such as reusable plastic, paper and other secondhand materials.
Optimizing energy consumption.
Our 2023 ambition includes upgrading the pneumatic and electric design to reduce our machines’ overall energy consumption while increasing the performance rate.
Preserving food quality and freshness.
We help pack frozen products, enabling the production of a stable food supply by preventing food waste.
Enabling customers to optimize transportation processes and fuel efficiency.
Our new HDG 200 machine, designed for flexible membrane applications, enables the use of lighter material. This allows customers to transport more products on each delivery trip, which improves fuel efficiency.
Packing pharmaceuticals with care.
Pharmaceuticals represent a large market we serve. Our machines pack pharmaceuticals in accordance with laws and regulations, ensuring that medicines and related products are packed in a safe and sanitary manner.
Preserving customers’ workplace health and safety.
Several safety features that our machines include are safety guards that automatically shut off when a guard is opened or stopped, and line estop that connects our machines to the customer’s safety operations.
PRODUCT QUALITY AND SAFETYRecognizing that we manufacture complex machinery that people handle and operate, we maintain stringent standards to ensure product safety and quality. We follow guidelines outlined by the European Machinery Directive, which defines essential health, safety and environmental protection requirements before a product can be commercialized. We are certified by SEDEX, which frequently conducts SMETA audits that include reviewing our safety and quality management. In 2021, we satisfied all the audit criteria by this third-party organization. We also have internal guidelines for quality control, including checklists and documentation to ensure safety and functionality expectations are met. We conduct extensive electrical and mechanical tests of our machines, in some cases for years before they go on the market.
All our machines are or may be upgraded to use sustainable packaging materials such as recyclable plastic. In 2021, we developed a solution that allows existing machines to run monolayer packaging film that is seamlessly processed and recyclable. Prior to this, packaging film consisted of multiple layers with different characteristics, and as a result, it was more challenging to recycle. Although the transition to monolayer film can sometimes present challenges with traditional machinery due to temperature and torque sensitivity, our machines are designed to overcome these barriers so customers may transition to greener materials without production setbacks.
SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT Effective management of TPG’s supply chain ensures critical materials and components are properly delivered, minimizing potential delays of delivery to the customers. It also ensures that we work with suppliers that provide high quality materials in an ethical manner. Where possible, we work with suppliers local to our sites to create a positive impact in the communities where we operate. TPG has four production sites, three of which are in Germany and one in China. Our CEO Dr. Mertens oversees supply chain management, and each site is responsible for managing its supply chain and procurement structure. Most of our sites source from local suppliers. If materials are not available locally, we source from other regions, such as the U.S., where we get some critical automation and drive systems components. We value our suppliers, and we seek to establish a collaborative relationship where they are viewed as business partners. Our Code of Conduct outlines our expectations when working with suppliers including: Procuring a request for proposal (RFP) to ensure competitive bids, Ensuring a fair bidding process by avoiding potential conflicts of interest, Conducting regular reviews of supplier relationships to ensure performance. In 2021, we developed a supplier questionnaire to screen potential and current suppliers for sustainability topics such as energy management and emissions as well as human rights in their supply chain. In 2022, we engaged key suppliers, such as Rockwell Automation, Siemens AG and Schneider Electric, on this assessment.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chains were impacted worldwide due to material and labor shortages. In some cases, we experienced an increase in demand for our machines while our suppliers had to decrease production. To minimize disruptions to our business and customers, we worked closely with our suppliers to anticipate delays and plan our production accordingly.
In 2021, TPG’s key focus was maintaining a strong supply chain. We established agreements with critical suppliers to secure deliveries for the following year. This enables us to better forecast production and helps our suppliers prioritize the delivery of key components for our machines.
For parts that continue to have sourcing challenges, we leverage different channels or supply streams. For example, FAWEMA launched a take-back initiative for critical components that are still difficult to acquire on the market. This provides customers with an option to send back components that need repairs, and we give them a discount upon returning them.
Automation as a growth driver
We recognize that automation, along with sustainability, is a growth driver in our business. One of the impacts of COVID-19 is the labor shortage, which has made staffing and hiring challenging across all industries. As a result, we look for opportunities within our facilities and internal processes that can be automated with modern technology. For example, we enhanced our ERP system in 2022 to automate carbon emission evaluations throughout our operations including transportation and machinery.
We also strive to support customers by identifying ways that our machines can automate their processes to increase efficiency and output with the same resources. For example, some of our customers produce different types of bags and films. The process of switching from one product to another is a major source of errors if the operator inputs the incorrect bag size and formula, leading to packaging film waste. To address this, our new machines have a fail-safe feature with formuladriven perimeters, where they automatically switch to the proper specification when a new product is inputted.