Cama thinks outside the box

Secondary packaging may sound like a pretty simple field, but that’s only because you haven’t spoken to Cama. The Italian manufacturer of automatic secondary packaging machinery has distinguished itself from its competitors by becoming the only operator in its field to make its own fully integrated packaging lines incorporating both robotics and traditional packaging machines.
Based in the Lake Como region in northern Italy, Cama was established in 1981. At first the company relied on other robotic components to integrate with its own machines, but over time they decided they needed their own solution. “We tried at the beginning to combine other companies’ robots with our machines, but we found that they were never perfect and it always led to complaints from our customers,” says Cama’s Executive Marketing Manager, Renata Dell’Oro. So, in the 1990s, the family-owned company decided to turn its attention to solving this problem by building its own robotics. “The idea was not to make the best robot in the market, but to make a robot best suited to the work that we needed them to do and to work seamlessly in conjunction with our other machines,” Dell’Oro tells GCR Magazine. As a result, Cama is now the only secondary packaging line manufacturer in the world that offers a completely integrated solution to its customers. “We were able to combine automatic packaging machines with our robots in order to provide turn-key solutions for the end of line,” Dell’Oro says. This sets Cama apart from the other companies in its field, Dell’Oro tells GCR. “Most of our competitors provide excellent turn-key solutions, but they are either focused just on the robots or on combining different robots with their machines,” he says. While it has traditionally worked with the food and consumables industries, Cama’s traditional clients are in the bakery and confectionery industries. But the company started to work in coffee when it landed a contract with a large Swiss roaster some 15 years ago. There was no better introduction to the single serve arena, Dell’Oro tells GCR. “When you talk about coffee capsules in Europe, this company is synonymous,” he says. While they started out adjusting their existing machines to work with capsules, Cama soon came up with a new solution for the industry.
“We designed robots with special suction cups for gentle handling and from there coffee became the most important segment for Cama,” Dell’Oro says. Since then, machines for the coffee segment have grown to represent more than 25 per cent of Cama’s annual turnover, which is more than US$75 million. Over that time, Cama has refined their offering to accommodate the specific needs of the industry. “Capsules require very high speed production where one machine can handle up to 800 capsules per minute, or two machines doing 450 capsules per minute each and we can combine those lines with one robot placing the capsules inside the custom box,” he says. “We also provide the machinery to fold the box up from flat pack and collate the capsules in there.” The company also has a dedicated service and packaging department that assists clients to find the best solution to their specific requirements. One of the big innovations Cama’s service and packaging department has been able to come up with was for a large American roaster in the US. They developed a solution to nest the capsules, all facing up on one level and all down on the lower level within the box. This meant that more capsules could be packed into smaller boxes, saving the customers a lot of space. “It’s something that gave us a big advantage with our customers and has led to a lot of work developing similar solutions for other companies in other parts of the world such as Italy and Australia,” Dell’Oro says. While Cama has worked with some of the single serve segment’s biggest names on both sides of the Atlantic, Dell’Oro says that the new direction for the industry is towards making room for smaller players. “What we are seeing now, in the past year or two, there are a lot of smaller producers entering the market and we have been receiving enquiries and we have been supplying lines for these small and medium-sized companies,” he says. “If I think about the market three or four years ago, it was mostly geared towards big installations for large volume producers and there was no room for small or medium-sized producers.” This has translated into more work for Cama, but often on smaller projects. “Smaller scale producers couldn’t get into the market before, it was just a market for the companies that could make very big investments and produce millions of capsules per month,” Dell’Oro says. Dell’Oro points out that, with the key patents belonging to the larger company’s patents having expired, he expects this trend to continue. “The smaller players are here to stay,” he says. “There are hundreds of choices for consumers now. Whatever system you buy, there are going to be compatible capsules out there so you can really choose according to your taste.” With more than 95 per cent of its business generated through exports, Cama has also been focused over recent years on making sure it has a physical presence in as many of it markets as possible. This has led the company to establish subsidiaries throughout Europe, the United Kingdom and more recently in North America, China, Australia and Eastern Europe, as well as having agents across the world. “These subsidiaries are important because they are both commercial and technical, so they can provide the full suite of services to our customers in all of those regions,” Dell’Oro says. A key area of focus in recent years has been North America, which currently accounts for about 20 per cent of the company’s business, he tells GCR. “We are going to start assembling the machines in the US for that market,” he says. Cama is also looking to grow its presence in the Middle East, which is becoming a more important market. And with the continuing strong growth in the single serve segment, Dell’Oro says he is confident the company will continue to expand into new markets. “With some patents expiring, it has become easier for smaller roasters and producers to enter the market and achieve enough market share in order to survive,” he says. GCR

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