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Packaging & design

"This unprecedented crisis spurs creativity," François Luscan, Albéa

Like the entire industry, the global beauty packaging giant has had to cope with an unprecedented turmoil challenging the entire sector and the economic environment. Once the first moments of bewilderment had vanished, the Group managed to organize itself, protect its teams and refocus part of its production towards new needs. We must now look to the future and reinvent ourselves, explains François Luscan, its CEO.

François Luscan, Albéa's CEO

François Luscan, Albéa’s CEO

Premium Beauty News - Albéa was highly responsive by reorienting its production and increasing strongly its supplies of tubes for gels and hydro-alcoholic solutions and of pumps for hygiene products. How was this possible?

François Luscan - I am particularly proud of my teams and the efforts made in the face this crisis of unprecedented violence. When our Chinese factories started being impacted in January, we hoped the turmoil would only be limited to Asia. But being present in the region allowed us to learn quickly and, when the health crisis spread, to transpose some good practices across all of our sites.

Fortunately, we already had a strong track-record in terms of health and safety, which have long been our priorities. We also anticipated, in theory, the onset of serious events, with business continuity plans, identified health advisers, stocks of protective equipment, governance plans. With the staff representatives and teams in charge of health and safety within the Company, I am extremely proud of what we all were able to implement, - and this on a global level -, and to disseminate the right practices within the Group.

The anticipation and the perfect preparation of both the Company and the teams, enabled to keep our sites running and be operational and reactive.

To this, I must add an exceptional spirit of cooperation and solidarity, within the Group and across the entire sector. When some of our customers called us on a Saturday because they were desperate to find packaging solutions for their production of hand sanitizers, everyone came together to provide them with solutions. The laboratory, the design office, the production teams and our entire supply chain made every effort to cope with the emergency. Employees went, in a short time, from a state of legitimate worry to that of a real commitment to the protective measures taken by the Company.

From this exceptional period, it is the solidarity and the sense of cooperation of each and every one that I will remember. Of course, there were some exceptions, but behaviours were generally exemplary.

Premium Beauty News - Gels and hydroalcoholic solutions… these products were usually seen in plastic bottles?

François Luscan - It’s true, but I think that needs far exceeded the usual production capacities. Our customers knew that tubes were readily available, they had the necessary expertise to condition them on their lines, and on the other hand, compatibility tests already existed.

Concerning the pumps, they were already used for soaps, foams, skincare creams.

Premium Beauty News - How is the container/content compatibility checked in such short notice?

François Luscan - Fortunately, we also know how to work in anticipation! In particular, upstream our standard formulas, we constantly test new formulations, and we check their compatibility with our different tube structures. Fortunately, this was the case for hydro-alcoholic gels. What happened in China also allowed us to jump the gun. And, in such an exceptional situation, there was a lot of data exchanged along the value chain.

Premium Beauty News - How was the implementation of barrier gestures disseminated in factories?

François Luscan - The experience acquired at the start of the crisis by our four Chinese sites gave us a slight head start. When the epidemic spread, we duplicated the schemes of good practices, initially designed for China, and ramped them up. We set up training sessions, created explanatory videos, posters.

Distancing rules implied rethinking the layout of workshops, of changing rooms, actually of all processes. The wearing of a mask became widespread. In sites located at the heart of hard hit areas, like our Bottanuco factory near Bergamo in Italy, after discussing it with the employees, we even implemented systematic temperature check-ups.

Hence, shared workspaces are regularly disinfected, as well as all workshops and premises in case of suspected positive cases. Of course, we supply our employees with masks and hydro-alcoholic gels. Our site in Indonesia has for instance started producing visors and masks.

Premium Beauty News - Hand sanitizers and hygiene products are in great demand today, but other categories are idle. How do these upheavals translate in terms of production?

François Luscan - All our tube production units are currently running in Western Europe (particularly Argonne and Vandières in France, or Colchester in England), in Eastern Europe and Russia (with Łubna in Poland), India, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, the United States, South Africa! In some cases, considerable efforts were required to adapt the production chains, sometimes with less staff, in particular because vulnerable employees were asked to stay at home. This was the case for some sites in France and Italy.

Demand for hygiene products and dermatological products sold in pharmacies also stimulates demand for pumps dedicated to foaming products or hand care products. Our sites in France, the Netherlands, the United States and Indonesia are currently responding to these needs. We also have to address a significant demand for the packaging of hair colouring kits.

Our tube and hygiene pump sites are run at around 90% of their capacity.

Conversely, the situation is more complicated for production sites specializing in make-up and perfumes. Mainly due to a drop in demand, because at the operational level, the measures taken in agreement with the employees enable our lines to run. Overall, I would say that our make-up and perfume sites are running at 50% of their capacity. Thanks to the remarkable support of our customers we were able to keep on producing and completing stocks, but we also had to recourse to short-time working in some sites.

Finally, our activities dedicated to bags and kits for airline companies, are undoubtedly the hardest hit.

We remain close to our customers, to prepare their next launches, even postponed ones or those requiring redesigning. And to reflect on the world to come!

Premium Beauty News - What do think the post-crisis background will look like for the beauty world?

François Luscan - I believe we can analyse what is happening in three stages.

The first stage is that of the crisis, of our bewilderment. No one expected what happened, we were all taken by surprise. Companies in many countries are still at this stage, and there is no denying that it was a serious blow to the whole market.

Then come will come the time for questioning, analysis, stabilization, with sites reorganized around a "new normal". People will start considering the recovery, to discuss projects. I think we have now reached this stage, at least in Europe.

And before us there is the post-covid19 world. I recently saw the title of a report prepared by my teams on post-Covid trends: Nothing should go back to normal. Normal wasn’t working.

We are all hearing the need for change. In our business we are particularly attentive to our customers and their market research; and what these market analyses mostly highlight is a huge need for transformation. Our Innovation teams have ideas, launch projects. All indicators show that the crisis will accelerate the transformation of the society and of consumption patterns. Of course, there will be important differences depending of regions in the world, but expectations in terms of environmental protection, of packaging recyclabilty should be reinforced. We are also undoubtedly tending to even more transparency, safety and benevolence. We will have to reinvent ourselves, find new solutions meeting new needs.

In summary, the economic and societal background will be, I fear, more difficult to deal with anything I have known, but there will be opportunities for innovation, in all areas. Thanks to the support of our shareholder but also of exceptional customers, and thanks to the commitment of our teams, we will show resiliency. Reinvent and reinventing yourself, even in times of crisis, remains exciting.

Interview by Vincent Gallon

© 2020 - Brazil Beauty News - www.brazilbeautynews.com

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