IMA Erca’s portfolio contains a variety of filling machines for dairy products, particularly yoghurt. “Since the company’s beginnings more than 50 years ago, we have been producing customized machines, tailor-made to ideally suit our customers’ needs,” says Philipe Farrugia, Managing Director of IMA Erca. “Our particular strength is in the field of FFS machines.”
FFS stands for form, fill and seal, a type of machine that heat-forms the cup from raw plastic material, then fills it and in a final step seals type of machine was invented by IMA Erca 50 years ago and the company has been the technological leader in the field ever since and holds numerous patents.
Previously part of the OYSTAR group, together with Benhil, Gasti, Hamba, Hassia and Hassia India, today, Erca is part of the Italian IMA group. IMA is market leader in machinery production.
Originally starting off with tea bags, the group is currently active in the areas of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, food, services. IMA acquired OYSTAR in March 2015 integrating it into the group as its new IMA DAIRY & FOOD division.
“IMA DAIRY & FOOD has production facilities in France, Spain, Italy and Germany as well as in India,” Mr. Farrugia explains. Besides his position as Managing Director for IMA Erca he also has managerial responsibility for various other brands in the division. “Aditionally there are sales offices around the world, in America, Asia, South America, and another one will be opening up on the African continent soon. Export rates are very high.”
Erca itself has three facilities – headquartered in Paris, it runs production units in Normandy as well as in Spain. “Our Spanish facility focuses on the renovation of machines,” the Managing Director states. “Our machines can be restructured or renovated. This transformation adds new value.”
Another business area of the Spanish location is the production of machinery with low output, while in Normandy the focus is on aseptic technologies and machines with large output. At its three facilities, IMA Erca employs 200 members of staff.
Just like the entire division, IMA Erca generates around 90% of its turnover outside the European market. “Our business truly does take place world wide,” Mr. Farrugia emphasizes.“There is substantial growth in our market in the Americas as well as in Asia at the moment of between 5 and 10%.”
IMA Erca’s customers are companies from the food production idustries such as Danone or Müller. “To cater to our customers, we have our own internal distribution network as well as agents,” says Mr. Farrugia. “This has proven to be a very successful combination.”
Beyond that Erca takes part in many trade fairs, both regional and international. “However, the reason for our success is predicated on our high innovative capacity,” the Managing Director emphasizes. “We invented FFS technology and have kept on developing innovative machinery, registering many patents along the way. Today, it is the whole segment of round cups – we develop new decorations for these cups. Innovation simply runs in our blood.”
Another aspect to the company’s successful development is the sturdiness of its products; IMA Erca machines are still fit for use after 20 or even 30 years.
“Also, we have a strongly developed sense for service,” Mr. Farrugia adds. “We are always there for our customers, no matter where in the world they are, we always provide on-site services. Offering maintenance and repair nearby is extremely important and our engineers are an important factor in this aspect.”
A new keyword here is remote support. “There is a tendency in our market to do diagnostics online,” Mr. Farrugia explains the impact of digital transformation on his line of work. “We speak about ‘enhanced reality’. Long distance maintenance and repair certainly is part of digital transformation and remote support is currently a topic. We can access and maintain machines in Asia or in the US from our parent company in Paris.”
For the future, IMA Erca is planning to develop both geographically and technologically. “There is a lot more potential in Asia, Africa and South America and we certainly want to continue to grow there,” says Mr. Farrugia. “Concerning technologies, we will be offering more machines of smaller capacities but with increased flexibility and versatility, because that is what the market wants and our customers’ requirements are always at the heart of our actions.”