JASA Packaging Solutions has an American dream - an interview with owner Sandra Pannekeet
Sandra Pannekeet, owner of JASA Packaging Solutions from Alkmaar, left at the end of last year to settle down in Richmond (Virginia)with her family. By doing so, she ceased her hometown of Alkmaar in the North of Holland. In Richmond she founded JASA America to give extra momentum to the activities of the Dutch company. "If we want to grow our business, part of our future will be here, in the US” says the pioneer and entrepreneur pur sang.
JASA Packaging Solutions is specialized in the development, design and construction of packaging machines, complete weighing and packaging lines. The company has an impressive resumé going back 34 years ago. In 1985 Sandra’s father Piet Pannekeet started the company, then named PMT (Pannekeet Machine Techniek).
A highlight was gaining the Corporate Election North Holland Award in 2013 in the medium-sized enterprise category. ''We are a real family business. As a kid, when we went on vacation we first drove past three customers before we set off. On top of that, we are a real entrepreneurial company" says Sandra Pannekeet, who took over her father's shares in 2007. However, she did not actually start working in the company until 2011. The reason for that is that she had to complete her studies in industrial design engineering in The Hague after she received a Master degree in financial management at Nyenrode Business University. After that, she followed a management traineeship for 2-years at ORMIT.
From Alkmaar to the US
''We focus on assisting our customers and finding them the best solutions. As a result, for a long time we provided a personal solution for every client. Even though this worked well, we were sometimes blind to the fact that the same inventive solution could serve other companies too. Hence, we have taken up this challenge since last year by re-organizing our company and improving our marketing. In addition, we have developed a number of high-profile innovations. These are now entering the market, grasping for further internationalization. Now business is on the right track, it is time to expand our horizons as we are doing today in the USA!
We have already had an American distributor network for more than 25 years. Now however, we are really going to settle here ourselves. We believe JASA USA has an enormous potential. Therefore, we have the ambition to grow 10 million dollars in sales in the upcoming three years. In time, JASA USA can even become larger than JASA Alkmaar. We will never leave our Dutch roots, but it is very possible that we will eventually develop an assembly line in the USA."
One of the developments in which JASA has taken the lead is packaging without plastic. ''The demand for these types of products is increasing enormously. Developments of paper with a laminate coating have been taken place branch wide as laminate used to be inevitable for sealing packages. However, our focus was on how to develop a package without any plastic or laminate involved. Therefore we on how to use our machine expertise: how can we produce a plastic-free packaging that still runs 60 bags/minute on our machine?
One of our board members, Hendrik van den Berg, started working on an idea. He has accomplished an invention which is patented. Bag-2-Paper ™ was born. Bag-2-Paper ™ is 100 percent paper without a plastic coating. The packaging is closed without sealing and is completely suitable for recycling. Bag-2-Paper ™ is a revolution on the field of sustainable packaging. Our innovative Bag-2-Paper ™ vertical packaging machine is ideal for making more sustainable packaging for dry products, such as flower bulbs, potatoes, onions, garlic, shallots, nuts and seeds. And by the virtue of our vertical packaging system, products are packed at high speed.
Bag-2-Paper ™ is very well received and as we speak we are sharing this innovation in our workfield. The time is there! Our Italian distributor had brought 50 potential clients to our booth during the Fruit Logistica exhibition recently held in Berlin. Now we are negotiating with some major European parties. This attention is new to JASA.
Consequences of Trump's policies
''JASA is active in 30 countries worldwide and works with local distributors abroad. This was also the case in the US and we will remain so in the future. Initially, we focused on the search for more dealers, but after intensive research and following a business training course in Boston, it emerged it was necessary to have a branch to respond to the demand for JASA products properly.
The business climate in the US is great. If you do it right, this country has unlimited possibilities. You can extend your network and people allow you the business. Dutch entrepreneurs have a good reputation, especially in the field of agriculture and food. Moreover, a consequence of President Trump's policy is that cheap labour -which is still widely used in America- is becoming increasingly difficult to find. Automation is the key answer. And that is exactly what JASA is good at.
We are starting our direct sales in America with focus on the sleever. This machine is very easy to install in a production line. The cardboard sleeves are on the rise in tray packs and "ready to eat". As a result, they are booming in the Netherlands and the USA. In March we will already be installing our first machines at a Texan customer.
The choice of Richmond in Virginia is indeed a conscious one. You find many other Dutch companies here. The packaging industry was already large in this part of the country because of the tobacco industry. We were welcomed with open arms and the city of Richmond guided us around. Richmond is an emerging and vibrant city. Hence, people are content when companies settle in the region. "
Due to her positive experiences in the US, exciting times are coming up now she changed Alkmaar for Richmond. It is totally in line with the expansion of the company as she has experienced this.
''In my early days at JASA I mainly worked in the company rather than determine the company’s strategy as I do now. The American adventure gives a new flow to our company and its employees. You feel our status has changed. Consequently, we now receive open applications for positions that we couldn’t find people for before. Our appearance appeals to others, something we are really glad of. In terms of organisation and management, we are well organized. Mainly because of that, we can make the move to Richmond. In Alkmaar we have an excellent general manager: the experienced Eduard de Haan. He is assisted by Hendrik van den Berg, our R&D director for a long time. Both are just as attached to the company as the shareholders. "
And are you going to stand your ground as a woman in America?
''You don't see many women in the machine business, but I don't feel that as an issue. Anyone with ambition and a plan, will be listened to seriously. In the end, you always have to prove yourself, whether you are a man or a woman. I notice so far, being a lady in this position is refreshing. It's a different sight compared to men in grey suits. Something I certainly don't mind."
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