The packaging machine manufacturers in southern Lower Saxony are also opening up their network to companies from outside the industry. The diverse cluster is generating business and saving costs through joint procurement.
While the southern German packaging machine manufacturers are moving even closer together in a planned cluster merger, and the companies in central Hessen have split up with the dissolution of their packaging cluster, companies in southern Lower Saxony have opted for a different approach. The South Lower Saxony Packaging Cluster founded in 2006, has 94 member companies with a total of 11,000 employees and is primarily a purchasing association. And only half of the members are active in the packaging industry. “We have opened ourselves up to companies and service providers from outside the industry”, says Roland Marx, Managing Director of Verpackungscluster Südniedersachsen e. V. The aim is to network companies to win new customers and get to know service providers in the region. “For example, if someone wants to replace their merchandise management system, they can ask the members about their experience with this”.
Joint workshops and networking events on topics such as digitisation are another focus. Companies can participate in up to 14 purchasing projects. For example, there are framework agreements with rental car firms and company car dealers, under which member companies can benefit from better conditions. Electricity and courier services are also purchased jointly. Everyone pays their own bills, but saves costs through joint purchasing. The cooperative system serves as a model, explains Marx. “Many already have already recovered their annual membership fee by the savings on the purchase projects”.
Entrepreneurs get together to purchase
The honorary chairman of the cluster is currently Thomas Schiewe, managing partner of TopStrap GmbH in Northeim. The packaging companies are active members, the others passive. All have the same rights and obligations; members pay between EUR 750 and EUR 1,750 in annual dues, depending on the number of employees. This funds the current operation of the association, which has done without public sector support for ten years. Only active members have a vote on strategic changes. The cluster also has an educational academy that offers seminars for trainees, employees and managers. If the association is sometimes described as diverse, it can argue that this generates business, says Marx. For example, a company contacts cluster management to ask for manufacturers of sustainable packaging. Marx forwards the request anonymously to all members, and the answers are forwarded after consultation with those involved.
The packaging cluster cooperates with the Waldeck-Frankenberg metal processing cluster in northern Hesse, where Marx is also managing director. Many metalworkers are service providers for packaging machine manufacturers, so networking is an advantage. In addition, the packaging cluster cooperates with an association of twelve natural food wholesalers, “Die Regionalen”, who now purchase many packaging materials in southern Lower Saxony. Other “cross-clustering models” have failed, however. “I believe that this is due more to competition between cluster managements, not the companies”.
von Anna Ntemiris