Michael Mapes – President of Greif’s Flexible Products & Services division

Michael Mapes explains why Greif decided to enter the FIBC market and gives an update on the company’s joint venture with Dabbagh

Michael, tell us how you came to work with Greif?

Prior to joining Greif, I was a consultant with McKinsey & Company where I had the privilege of working with Greif to help architect and implement the Greif Business System.  Through this experience, I had an inside view of the company and was extremely impressed with its people, culture, and vision.  I ultimately joined Greif because I believed in the senior leaders of the company, in the path to create a market leader, and in the opportunities to make a difference.

To date, what’s your biggest accomplishment there?

Accomplishing something great in business requires the efforts of an entire team, not any individual.  I am most proud of leading the team that has created the global leader in flexible industrial packaging, which started from just an idea on paper.  Despite a challenging European economy, we have made tremendous progress in our first 2 years since acquiring 4 of the leading FIBC companies.  And through our integration and transformation efforts, we are well on our way to creating one world class business.

What were the main reasons for Greif wanting to enter the FIBC market?

Greif is the global leader in industrial packaging with a 135 year history of growing its product portfolio to meet its customers’ packaging needs.  Our decision to enter the FIBC market followed a comprehensive strategic review highlighting the attractiveness of the product in complementing and strengthening our rigid packaging offering.  In fact, 9 out of Greif’s top 10 rigid customers buy FIBCs. By combining the strengths of the world’s best FIBC suppliers with the resources of Greif, we can become an even greater productivity partner for our customers well into the future.

What is important when manufacturing an FIBC – what determines a good product from a poor product?

Manufacturing an FIBC is complicated – much more complex than most people imagine.  It begins with producing high quality fabric using the right formula of high quality raw materials combined with great machinery and technical experience.  Converting fabric into finished bags requires a combination of skilled and seasoned operators with the right tools, processes, and capabilities in place.  This is particularly important given the highly manual nature of the process.  If a company cuts corners on any of this – for example, using inferior resin, not enough UV stabiliser, inexperienced workers, or inadequate quality methods – the big bags won’t perform as expected. That’s when you have a leaking FIBC, or worse yet, a catastrophic safety incident.  At Greif, we know what’s necessary to manufacture a good bag, and that’s what we do. In fact, we encourage all of our customers to visit our manufacturing sites to observe first-hand our commitment to quality.

What does Greif offer to its customers in order to achieve loyalty in this extremely competitive market?

You’re exactly right – it is a highly competitive market. The only way that Greif will consistently achieve a loyal customer base is by providing superior value. Fortunately, from the 4 acquisitions, we have a tremendous base of talented employees, market leading manufacturing assets, technical capabilities, and customer service centers.  And we’re making investments to ensure we can deliver superior value for years to come.  We’re implementing the Greif Business System – a set of common tools, processes, and capabilities – to optimise performance and to ensure sustainability. We’re investing in our manufacturing footprint, most recently with our state-of-the-art factory in Saudi Arabia that is now producing fabric. And we’re investing in innovation, which has resulted in more new patents this year than the last 3 years combined.  We are doing all this while working with our customers to determine how we can deliver on their needs both today and in the future.

In 2010, Greif created a joint venture with National Scientific Company Limited, a subsidiary of Dabbagh. Since then, what has been the impact on the sector and developments within the JV?

Our latest development is that our factory in Saudi Arabia is now operational, and our JV partner’s expertise in operating in Saudi Arabia has proven to be instrumental along the way.

The joint venture is building a state-of-the-art polypropylene fabric manufacturing facility in Saudi Arabia. How will this benefit your customers?

First of all, we’re confident that this new facility will produce the highest-performing fabric in the industry. We leveraged all of the expertise of our legacy companies, Greif, and our JV partner to design and build the ideal manufacturing site – state-of-the-art equipment in a state-of-the-art building. Second, our location ensures that we have consistent availability to resin. In combination with our significant manufacturing base in Turkey, Europe, Asia and the Americas our customers certainly have security of supply when they work with Greif. Third, our expansion into Saudi Arabia gives us a great platform for serving our customers in this country as well as the surrounding Gulf countries.

Sustainability and a company’s environmental foot print are becoming ever more important. What impact does the manufacture of FIBCs have on the environment and what is Greif’s policy on this?

Sustainability is one of Greif’s main priorities. We are fully committed to minimising our impact on the environment, and we have established and published specific targets for reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. We’re currently conducting a life-cycle assessment of FIBCs so that we and our customers can make better decisions. In addition, our acquisitions in 2010 also brought Rebu, the premier and most respected FIBC reconditioner, to the Greif portfolio. Through Rebu, we can clean – in an extremely safe and responsible manner – FIBCs for reuse. And we believe that we’re just scratching the surface of FIBC reconditioning; we want to expand this business in the coming years.