It is hard to become remarkable in the market of tooling for packaging production, to become significant is even harder. How Agora group of companies managed to do it was the topic of our conversation with its executive director Sergei Nikolaevich Kudashov.
- Sergey Nikolaevich, how was Agora established?
- We had an interesting way from an ordinary plastics processor to a group of companies working in injection molding and tooling production sectors. In the mid 90-s we started polymer wares' production. At 14 Italian injection molding machines of Triulzi with the help of Polish molds we manufactured disposable dinnerware: forks, knives, spoons, stirring sticks. Possessing a sufficient experience in molding sphere by that time, we purchased two thermoforming lines for disposable cups' production. Having successfully mastered this kind of business, in 1996 the company purchased large-sized injection molding machines and molds for plastic furniture production - tables and chairs. But having entered this market we faced the problem of necessity to supplement these wares with sunshades, and the latter - with stands. For that reason we purchased blowing machines of Hodas (Czech Republic) and molds for blowing stands.
As a result by the end of 1996 we became producers of plastic furniture, disposable dinnerware and 4 types of manufacture; molding, thermoforming and blow extrusion among them.
In 1997 we started manufacture of PET-cork for carbonated water, two-component cork for oil and cosmetic push-pull cork, and mastered multi-cavity molding, die stamping and corks' assembling. All this activity gave us the most important thing - we gained enormous experience of molds operation, we also acquired a lot of foreign partners-molds producers, and for the whole period of Agora's existence we have been maintaining business relations with them. To my mind, the next logical stage for Agora was entering the market of thin-walled multi-cavity wares for food industry. For that purpose in late 90-s the company acquired a profile enterprise with a 20-year experience of working in the Latvian preserves market, based on Straume factory in Riga. In 2005 structure of the enterprise was enlarged due to purchasing of two profile enterprises in Riga, as well as thanks to cooperation with other tooling producers in Italy, Lithuania, and Ukraine.
Since 1998 and till the present day the main trend of our company's activity has been production of tooling for thin-walled food packaging manufacture, as well as any kind of corks and covers. Over 7 years now we have been manufacturing products corresponding to requirements of both Russian and foreign customers.
- What are production capacities of Agora group of companies today?
- Molds are ordered by manufactured goods' producers striving to minimize expenses on preparation for packaging and containers' production. That is why the most significant tasks for us, as molds' producers, are to cut down production costs of molds, to reduce production time and to achieve high level of operation reliability of tooling. To solve all these tasks well-developed production structure is necessary.
Our company starts working over a mold from preparation of a ware's manufacture, designing an outward appearance and a mold parts' constructions, ordering consignments of frame parts and electronic constituent parts.
Due to application of up-to-date construction programs, we are capable to receive an order not only in form of a draught or a model, but also as a sketch, outline or a customer's wish, and within the shortest period to prepare construction documentation as well.
Quality and long life of molds manufactured is achieved due to up-to-date machine-tool equipment, application of technological structural steel by Bohler, Uddeholm, and standard elements by Hasco, DME, EOC, Husky.
Besides metal-working manufacturing, we have a molding shop equipped with up-to-date injection molding machines from various companies. This enables us to make our molds universal that allow taking into consideration peculiarities of various machines and are able to work on all the types of injection molding machines with maximum benefit and reliability. The injection molding shop gives Agora an opportunity in practice to solve all the problems plastic processors might face and efficiently introduce new solutions in the sphere of tooling production. Besides, a customer coming to us straight away can test a mold on injection molding machines from various producers, and as a result, make a maximum right decision while choosing an injection molding machine. By the way, our company may render assistance in choosing and purchasing an injection molding machine and periphery equipment necessary to solve various production tasks. We have a large practical experience in fulfillment of ready-to-operate projects of various complexities.
- What conditions should be fulfilled for production of a high-quality mold?
a) well-coordinated staff, everyone of whom, from a manager to an executor, loves his or her work and appreciates it; b) constantly modernized equipment stock, it is important to apply up-to-date technologies and to raise professional skills of the staff. For instance, this year we have invited to our factory specialists form England and Portugal who render us assistance in introducing economical production conception; c) producer's desire to manufacture high-quality molds; d) customer's desire to have high-quality tooling.
- I will answer point by point. It is necessary to have:
You know, as a rule, customers want to have cheap and fast manufactured molds. Our company is operating under principle "quality with no compromise". Production cycle is divided into phased manufacture of an ultimate product: it is necessary to prepare construction documentation, to order mold blocks, to order shape-generating steel and its manufacture and heat treatment of molding shape-generating elements, mechanical processing of standard blocks, mold's assembling. At every stage we practice highly professional approach.
It is also important that in molds' manufacture we apply up-to-date technologies and materials. For example, we widely apply not only inserts from beryllium bronze Moldmax HH, but elements made of it completely. High heat conductivity of this alloy provides not only reduced cycle period due to more intensive cooling of a ware, but also even heat distribution within a patrix by injection, which enables to improve quality of a ware to a great extent. Increased hardness of Moldmax HH (40 HRC), combined with corrosion resistance, considerably extends operation life of our molds, protecting them from sudden strikes, influence of cooling liquids, flooding of plastics and polymer gases emitted in molding process.
- What advantages does cooperation with your company bring to your customers?
- To my mind, it is of great importance that we start process of cooperation with our partners with training the staff of companies becoming our customers, at our factories where they can contemplate the inner side of modern development of plastics processing industry and may apply this knowledge to solve their own tasks.
Without any doubt cooperation with Agora group of companies multiplies volume of wares production, brings about opportunity to enter key markets of the CIS and foreign countries with this kind of product and, of course, the most important thing - there appears long-term opportunity to gain profit with the help of our molds.
- What place does Agora take in the Russian market today, according to your estimations?
- Molds market in Russia and the CIS countries is only being formed, that is why it is hard to speak about its capacity, demand and our company's place in it today. But we are working with all the regions of Russia and the CIS countries and we estimate our presence in this market as 5-10% of the total number of producers, both domestic and foreign ones.
- What way will your company develop in future?
- We are still intending to develop molds manufacture for packaging and containers' production, but we also aim to win such a market sector as molds for large-scale molding (up to the volume of 15-20 liters). That will cause increase of equipment stock, and consequently there will appear a necessity to enlarge our production areas. Besides, as soon as this June we are opening a service center of the company in Moscow to provide faster and more efficient maintenance to our Russian customers. We have ambitious plans!