Based in the city of Dornbirn in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg, the Rattpack Group is one of the showcase companies in the Austrian print and packaging industry.
It is characterised by the energetic business hub in the westernmost federal state of Vorarlberg which extends over the borders to Germany and Switzerland. Rattpack recently invested approx. €4m ($5.4m) in setting up a centre for high-speed packaging production, which includes a KBA Rapida 106-6-L. This is the first KBA press to go to the Dornbirn site.
"Don't go where the puck is, go where it is going to be". This quote by ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky underscores the Group's philosophy. Since its founding in 1953 by Hugo Ratt, Rattpack has followed this strategy with the strength of a family-run business. Unfortunately, the firm's founder died suddenly and his son Wolfgang Ratt who was an apprentice at the Federal Education and Research Institute for Graphics in Vienna had to take over the reins in 1965. Today this medium-sized company is managed by brothers Stephan Ratt (CEO) and Matthias Ratt (CFO) who are the third generation of the founding family. The Group's nine sites and 416 employees generate sales of €62.5m ($85m). In 2005 revenue came in at €15m ($20.4m), which indicates an intensive growth strategy.
Growth and international orientation
The growth curve began when Wolfgang Ratt took over at the helm. What started with the processing of grey board in 1953, turned into the production of folding carton and blanks in 1965 with the investment in high-speed machines and an industrial emphasis. Today's site in Welloch/Dornbirn was bought in 1972. The firm focused on the production of packaging for pharmaceutical products (folding carton, package inserts) until 2002 and was one of the largest manufacturers in this sector in Austria.
The "young generation" then began to strengthen the firm's international focus. The reason for this was a talk about an offer with one of the pharmaceutical industry's big players. "The firm didn't want to accept our prices especially as we were only a small company with one site," explains Stephan Ratt. Rattpack had to expand. It entered the market for food packaging via a new employee and acquired Stärkle Moser in Switzerland in 2004. This was followed by the takeover of the firm's strongest competitor in the pharmaceutical branch, Eberle, based in Vienna. Today its previous owner is still responsible for the business in Vienna. With this acquisition Rattpack was thus able to operate nationwide.
Flexible KBA Rapida 75E for pharma
A KBA Rapida 75E has been in operation at Eberle since 2011 handling the firm's entire range of substrates, from 40gsm (10lb bond) paper for dosage instructions to 600-700gsm (24-27pt) board for packaging. Almost all the colours are spot. The majority of products are packaging for prescription drugs in two or three colours, only the folding carton for generic drugs has a higher colour content. Dosage instructions are printed in anything up to four-backing-four. Folded, they can be as much as 1cm (0.4in) thick, since the instructions are often translated into 25 languages. The packaging, however, is printed in just one language, so up to 20 multiple versions are required for medication that is distributed internationally. Since there are also different product sizes, between 40 and 50 different types of pack must be produced for any one medication. Chinese and Arabic have almost become routine, Icelandic and Finnish are less common.
Rattpack Bulgaria was founded in 2006 in the trade fair city of Plovdiv to produce CD inserts and tobacco packaging serving local needs. Nevertheless, in the meantime this shareholding has been terminated. The Bulgarian firm continues to use its Rattpack logo and is counted as one of the Group's production sites.
Specialisation of the plants
"The takeover of Multipack in Bavaria was almost a cloak-and-dagger operation", says Stephan Ratt. "The firm produces packaging for food in large format at its plant in Mindelheim, Bavaria, and was up for sale. Within three days we opted to take it over". This step also signalled the start of focusing different activities at the individual plants. Vienna became fully responsible for pharmaceutical products, Dornbirn for food and large jobs (pharmaceutical), and Mindelheim for food, dairy products and laminating.
In 2011 Rattpack took over commercial printer Wieder and moved its activities to Dornbirn. Yet, the firm soon discovered that commercial printing and packaging printing can't be correlated and decided to move its commercial activities to Wenin, a print shop close by.
In the same year Rattpack acquired prepress company DRS (Digital Repro Service) in Lustenau, Austria, which in the meantime has become a base for repro activities for the whole Group. At that time DRS also used PMS (Packaging Management System) which served as a link between brand products, the print shop and advertising agency. This system subsequently proved to be of great value to the Rattpack Group and its communication with customers. DRS still generates 50 per cent of its sales with contracts from outside of the Group.
A recent investment is a shareholding in dv-b in Germany, also a family-run business which specialises in laminating (large format). In the meantime the Group's existing laminating activities have been moved to this site.
Founded in 2008, a firm in Apolda, Germany, deserves particular attention. Its objective is to produce pizza boxes on-site for a pizza manufacturer. One reason for this clever decision was higher freight costs for high-volume packaging which came to four per cent of the value of the total order. "The concept works well and it paid off from the start", says Stephan Ratt.
How did Rattpack come across this company? "Well, we are a very open, communicative firm which approaches our competitors as equals and with respect. We are known as a professional company and people in the industry know that Rattpack wants to expand", explains Stephan Ratt. "This is how it came to the shareholdings and takeovers mentioned". Ratt says, the support of the local banks has also been very important in recent years, without it they wouldn't have been able to make these decisions as quickly.
Broad product portfolio
Today Rattpack's product spectrum is broad and varied. 31 per cent of sales are generated with folding carton, 20 per cent with blanks, 19 per cent with laminated corrugated and 18 per cent with package inserts for pharmaceutical products. The rest is spilt between displays, service prepress, commercial work and labels. Per year this results in 900m folding boxes, 650m dosage instructions and 40,000 tonnes of carton. This done on a three-shift basis, four when necessary, and in compliance with the necessary standards, including ISO 9001, ISO 15378, ISO 22000 and ISO 15593.
Along with the technological spectrum that includes offset, UV offset, flexo, braille/check boxes, hot-foil printing and the high level of automation, customers' value the company's flexibility, lean management, and its network and site policies most of all.
Tennis enthusiast Stephan Ratt and his team are the right people when it comes to quick decisions and professional implementation. This shows the advantages of an owner-run, mid-sized company.
High-speed centre features Rapida 106
In 2013 the firm invested approx. €4m ($5.4m) in a new production area to react even more flexibly to customer wishes. The highly automated, high-speed centre consists of a KBA Rapida 106, a Bobst die-cutter, an Expertfold 110 gluer from Bobst with Cartonpack GT as well as a robotic palletiser. This is the first KBA press at this site. Stephan Ratt: "KBA did very well in the tests we carried out in 2012, we just needed to convince our staff. But the decision in favour of KBA was made relatively quickly after the printers saw how easy and comfortable the KBA Rapida is to handle."
The Rapida 106 at Rattpack is a six-colour press with coater and CX board handling kit. It is raised by 67.5cm (26.6in) given the its speed of 18,000sph. The press is equipped with automatic pile logistics with nonstop feeder and delivery, automatic plate changing, QualiTronic Color Control inline colour measurement, QualiTronic Professional inline sheet inspection and CleanTronic blanket washing systems. What is more it can print without or with little alcohol and features an ErgoTronic console with wallscreen. "The press nearly always runs at a top speed of 18,000sph", says Stephan Ratt. "We normally process between 300 and 500m² of board per hour. The press runs stably and I would even go as far as to say that in this respect it beats the competition", says a pleased Stephan Ratt. In addition, quality measurement and control systems in the press have considerably increased quality and this can be shown to the customer. "It is our opinion that our ability to compete has again been significantly improved with this investment in a KBA press and we are able to deliver production stability which is required by the industry's big players."
Rattpack aims to grow further, even though "recuperation" is currently on the agenda. The firm's main objective is to hit the €100m ($137m) sales mark and thus become one of the industry's largest firms. Rattpack knows exactly how to combine the strengths of a medium-sized, family-owned business with market needs. All in all this equals a professional, likable company that likes to be one step ahead of the competition.