Swiss quality is famous throughout the world and certainly not only for its watches. When I visited Soudronic some years ago, I was quite impressed by the high level of craftsmanship. The head of technology at the time told me how important the so-called ‘guild system’ has been for centuries for the buildup and further development of technical knowhow in Switzerland. And Soudronic is no doubt an example of it.
The company was founded in 1953 by Paul Opprecht and initially manufactured controls for resistance welding machines. It then started making the machines as well. The transition in the can making business in the 1970s from soldering to welding gave the company the opportunity to develop quickly in the years after as the undisputed world market leader in welding machines for can making. After that, the company kept developing fully integrated can body production lines, operating from very low speeds to a maximum of 1200 cans per minute.
Soudronic also supplies complete lines for the production of two-piece DRD cans on a large scale, heat-sealing systems for peel-off ends, can ends and twist off caps, but also complete lines for pails, drums, shaped cans, irregular meat cans, and so on. In recent years, the company took over some other Swiss producers of can making equipment, namely Frei and Can Man. At the same time, Soudronic made some organisational changes, for instance regarding its subsidiary Cantec in Essen, Germany.
As the world market leader for production systems for metal packaging, Soudronic today employs more than 700 people and has production sites in Switzerland, France, Italy, and China. The company’s sales and service network covers more than 120 countries, reflecting a large and global customer base. Thanks to its sound financial basis, the company has remained independent throughout its 70 years of history. Rolf Geide, CEO at Soudronic revealed some of the important projects and innovations happening at the company.
Are there examples of the synergy in technological developments between Soudronic and Can Man?
“With the acquisition of Can Man in 2020 we embarked upon an exciting future in can making. Both companies have strong product portfolios. With the additional technological power, there will certainly be new things in the future.’’
Is Cantec in Essen still a separate production location or a service location?
“We moved all activities for Can-O-Mat and End-O-Mat to Switzerland last year. However, our strong development and design team remains in Essen together with extended sales, sourcing and administrative functions in a new location.’’
Is there strong cooperation between Blema Aue, owned by the Leonhardt family and Soudronic, co-owned by this family?
“Soudronic Group and Blema Aue are simply two independent entities.’’
In the last 10 years or so, twopiece DWI cans also entered certain segments of the food can market. Do you think that the entrance of two-piece can technology in segments other than beverages has come to an end more or less?
“Two-piece DWI is an interesting story, if you do not have the steel mills available with the ability to roll thin gauge material. But in terms of material usage for food cans, and therefore carbon footprint, as well as flexibility in production lines three-piece cans are superior.”
Is Soudronic still working, together with steel suppliers, on ultra-thin can developments?
“Downgauging has always been a focus in Soudronic Group. Especially now with increased prices in raw material and the ban of plastic material, we see a lot of opportunities for downgauging.”
How much is your company actively involved in sustainability competition between packaging materials?
“To make metal packaging even more sustainable we have developed machines that can easily handle downgauged materials. The rising raw material prices may lead can makers to reconsider using downgauged tinplates for their production. Soudronic has done a lot in the past to further develop its equipment and we are ready to process thinner materials with our machines. With our expertise and investments in this field, we are confident that we will keep our leading position.’’
As we stated earlier, Soudronic developed various product lines after it first made an impressive line of welding machines. The number of innovations in their product line of welders, but also the machinery for twist off caps production, drums, pails and shaped cans in the last few decades is countless.
How do you look at the developments in China and South West Asia regarding can making machinery in terms of quality, pricing, etc? Could this be considered as a stimulus for the three-piece can market?
“Soudronic’s mission is to provide every three-piece can manufacturer with the best solution with
regards to efficiency of the system or machinery used, and also considering the budgets available. Therefore, it’s our goal to develop equipment that enables our customers to be economically successful. We will not be able to meet copier prices, but we are confident that our customers can see the advantages of our package. A package consisting of hardware, wide applications, low spare part consumption, the ease of use, and the great service we provide and, last but not least, the high safety standards. With regards to safety standards, local regulations are sometimes different but safety is a crucial long-term investment. We believe that is the responsibility of organisations towards their employees to adopt high safety standards.’’
Geide points to a special development in the area of sealing machines, an area in which Soudronic has built up an important position in the last few decades.
“The latest addition to Soudronic’s automatic thermo-sealing machines is the single-lane machine UNISEAL HSS-SL featuring a ringforming module that handles both composite and aluminium peel-off ends. With production speeds of up to 200 ends per minute, it is a perfect solution for can makers who require low to medium production runs. This new machine is based on the well-proven multi-lane UNISEAL HSS heat-sealing system, now installed at more than sixty locations worldwide. Designed to handle frequent product changeovers, it accommodates peel-off end diameters from 65mm to 127mm with challenging specifications such as aluminium shells and oval or unround ends. The compact machine offers unprecedented flexibility and a minimal on-site footprint. Perhaps more importantly, the system requires a considerably lower capital investment than its bigger brother, the multi-lane UNISEAL HSS.’’
I am sure we will hear and see, hopefully in presentations at shows and exhibitions around the world, more news from Soudronic about developments for the can making world. It seems to be an almost endless source of useful innovations for the whole can making business.
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