Hi, I’m Martin Grandjean from Argentina, although nowadays I live in London and work in Kampen (partially at least). I am a qualified lawyer, but I’ve never worked as one. I have an EMBA and an MSc in Technology and Entrepreneurship plus a cooking degree, as you can see I liked studying in the past.
Passionate about Business Development
Before joining Tembo (ITM at that time, February 2013) I used to be an entrepreneur and had co-founded two companies in Argentina in the Food and Beverage industry.
I’ve always loved business development so this is what I have been doing in ITM as Area Sales Manager in Latin America and since I joined Tembo Paper in the early days when it was still a project (November 2018) working on the business plan, market research and business development. Nowadays I spend 80% of my time working for Tembo Paper as Global Business Developer and the other 20% in my previous role for ITM in Latin America.
How the idea of making paper straws arose
By mid-September 2018, Imatec had the prototype ready for the spiral tube maker for an Next Generation Product (NGP) for a leading brand. Because of the similarities between a spiralled tube for NGP and a spiralled paper straw, Arend and Michiel van der Sluis, asked Pierre Mousson and me if we could investigate the straw/paper straw market and work on a report focusing on the business opportunities in this sector.
During our research we learned that due to legislation and trends, that plastic straws were doomed to disappear, opening up a huge market for paper and other alternative straws. We also learned that there had not been many innovations in the technology for paper straws since the main technologies were based on the original concept of making paper straws from around 1930. So after presenting our report and recommendations to the board, they decided to start up Tembo Paper Straws, the company located in Kampen for the production of paper straws.
Idea becomes a real product
In what kind of time frame did the idea of producing straws become a real product?
The time frame was really tight; we presented our report to Michiel and Arend in mid-November 2018 and to the complete board and shareholders in mid-December 2018. From there we started working on product development and market development.
In parallel, modifications continued to be done on the prototype machine. We started working on the product and March 1st we started with the production of straws for our first industrial straw customer, Capri Sun.
Great technology in our hands
Why did we choose to develop and produce machinery (our core business) as well as to produce straws?
For the first time as a group, we were confronted with a virgin industry in which there was no definition of the characteristics of the final product (paper straw). So we decided that the best way to fully develop a completely automated production line was to set up our own paper straw production facility. We knew we had a great technology in our hands but had no idea about the final product.
So we partnered with suppliers of paper and glue to develop a recipe for the final product.
Join forces with the main users of plastic straws
During the product development phase of the straws, we gained a great amount of information and experience that resulted in several modifications to the technology and production process. This also allowed us to join forces with the main users of plastic straws and co-develop paper-based solutions to replace the existing plastic straws. This ultimately resulted in us developing secondary machinery like the angle cut unit, the binding module for Telescopic straws, and the U-Shape module for U-shaped straws, amongst others.
Synergy within Tembo
Several companies within the Tembo group assisted with the development of the paper straw and machine. Please could you explain which companies cooperated and what was their role/contribution?
At this point it is difficult to say which company in the group has not cooperated in some way with Tembo Paper and with our Paper Spiraling Module. This has really been an extraordinary team effort and a wonderful experiment of intra-group companies’ collaboration.
The technology was developed by IMAtec, which started this project over two years ago and is still the technology owner. From the beginning, SPI was involved in the project since one of the key elements of our technology is the gluing system. ITM Germany was also involved with the software for the technology from the early days.
Gemba is also part of the project now with their data collection software, since we are not only selling our machinery but partnering with our customers. This implies that we are responsible for the overall efficiency of the modules and for this we need to have real-time data. This data is collected and analyzed by Gemba.
ITM Poland and ITM Eindhoven are also involved in the project. ITM Poland is the main production site for the Paper Straw Module. They are also the business owners of the version of the technology for the NGP Segment and have been selected to develop part of the auxiliary equipment like the angle cutting unit, the binging module for T-straws and logistics and mass flow equipment. ITM Eindhoven is responsible for producing a number of modules per year. PMP is one of the main suppliers of parts for the different machines of our growing product portfolio for paper straws.
We have now also involved Tricas and TDC in the project too. Tricas has been in charge of developing a U-shaped paper straw, thinking “out of the box”, and they have delivered an outstanding prototype and concept. In collaboration with Tricas, TDC is now optimizing technology to produce the U-shaped straws at an industrial level.
And last but not least TAM was involved in the early days, they will have a key role as a product development centre for our U.S. partners.
Most flexible in the market
How many straw types are we able to produce on the current machine per minute?
Our technology is one of the most flexible in the market and we are able to produce any straw measuring between 3 and 10 mm inner diameter and any length between 130 and 260 mm. At the moment, for straws with an inner diameter of less than 5 mm, we can run at 75 mts/min and for straws with an inner diameter of more than 5 mm we can run at 85 mts/min. The number of straws per minute depends on the length of the straw but for conventional Food Service Straws of 8 mm inner diameter and 200 mm length, we can produce 425 straws per minute at nominal speed, At an 85% OEE, this amounts to 360 straws per minute.
Telescopic and U-shaped paper straws
We have now developed some auxiliary equipment that allows us to produce telescopic and U-shaped paper straws for the industrial straw segment (by industrial straw segment we refer to any straw that is used as part of a single dose package)
What makes our product/machine unique compared to the competition?
In my opinion I believe the first thing that makes us stand out from the competition is our approach to paper straws both as a product developer and a technology supplier. From our research, we are the only company producing paper straws as well as supplying the technology to produce them and developing auxiliary machines to further extend the portfolio of products. This approach has enabled us to work side by side with the main users/consumers of paper straws and to convince them that our technology is the best and that the straws produced with our technology are the best performing and most sustainable straws in the market.
Most compact footprint in the industry
This is another of the key advantages of our technology. As a result of our patented vertical spiraling technology, we are able to offer the most compact footprint in the industry. Our module has a footprint of 3.6 square metres against around 20 square metres than the other technologies based on horizontal paper spiraling.
Unique characteristics ...
With regard to the technology, there are a number of characteristics that make it unique compared with the competition.
- First, our vertical spiraling system, which we have patented. We are the first company to offer this to the market.
- Second, our glue application system through which we apply a very low quantity and precise pattern of glue to each ply of paper, which results in us being able to control the exact amount of glue in each paper straw. This impacts both the compost ability and biodegradability of the straw, since glue is the only element that still has polymers in it.
- Another key feature is our circular cutting unit, which allows us to run at a higher speed and impacts the final product by producing precisely cut straws.
- Some other unique features are the wax application system, automatic bobbin splicer, individual collecting drum, individual rejecting unit and a number of sensors in the machine that allow us to have every parameter of the process under control.
Which customers choose us as their partner?
At the moment we have two types of customers.
On the one hand we have our partners and these are the companies that have selected our technology to produce paper straws. These companies are mostly producers of plastic straws that want to convert to paper straws or companies that are used to working with paper, so they either know the materials or the market.
In Europe we have three partnerships in place. The first partnership is in Soyez in France, a family-owned company and market leader in the French market for the supply of plastic straws. They have started a transition to paper straws and at the moment. They are rapidly expanding. If you go to the Netherlands and eat either at McDonald’s or Burger King, the paper straw you will get was made by Soyez on a Tembo Paper machine.
The other two partnerships in Europe are NB eco,in Lithuania – a company that is part of the Nemuno Banga group – and Ibertubos y Filtros in Alicante, Spain.
What are we focusing on?
The Paper Spiraling Module was designed for the NGP industry, so from day one it was conceived with the aim of minimizing waste and maximizing the efficiency during production.
We are also focusing on the OEE of the complete production line, working closely with Gemba to monitor the production process, capture data and identify bottlenecks and areas of improvement.
Being a father of three and travelling so much, there is not much time to relax. But I enjoy spending time with my wife and kids during the weekends, jogging whenever I get a chance – so my running gear is always in my suitcase – and having a run at 6 am in a city when travelling for work is the best way to get to know it.
I also enjoy playing tennis (although I don’t play as much as I would like to) and cooking. Cooking is one of my passions so at least once a week I cook for friends and family, when the British weather allows it I also barbecue the Argentinian way.
Who inspires you and why?
For the last 19 years, and for the last 9 years as my wife, the person who has inspired me is my friend and partner Connie. Since the moment we met, she has been the one pushing me to be a better person and showing me that nothing is impossible.
Thank you Martin!