10 September 2007 00:00 [Source: ICB]
BIG IS not always better. Against a background of continual consolidation in the distribution sector, one German businessman has decided to buck the trend and set up on his own.
After 26 years working for German distributor Biesterfeld's engineering polymers business, Torsten Hoeft was mulling his future.
Coincidentally, Spartech, a US-based acrylic film producer and one of Biesterfeld's smallest suppliers, was looking to expand in Europe.
Hoeft had worked with Spartech for many years and eventually he agreed to establish himself as an independent and exclusive supplier of Spartech's Korad and Acrylloy film in Europe.
ASP-Hoeft was born on January 2, 2007, and operates out of two locations on the eastern outskirts of Hamburg.
Wife Petra Hoeft, who has a sales background in thermoplastic with companies such as Albis Plastic, A. Schulmann and BF Goodrich, is responsible for sales, as well as bookkeeping and general organization. Other services such as finance, legal and quality related issues are outsourced.
Hoeft says there is a limited offering in the market for acrylic film and there are only four companies in the world that produce it. Having more than 20 years experience of working with Korad acrylic film, he believes that a pure film expert might have difficulties finding the right approach in the market as the product always goes with a substrate. This requires knowledge in thermoplastics and processing methods, he says.
Korad is used as a decorative and ultraviolet (UV) protective surfacing for plastic sheets, profiles and 3D parts. Applications include sanitary ware, recreational vehicles, building products such as window profiles and exterior doors, and sporting goods.
"Film is back in fashion," says Hoeft who explains that today's consumer is looking for pretty and decorative parts, many of which can only be done by using film lamination. "Two years ago, surface protection and coloring was mostly done by coextrusion, but consumers' wishes for printed decor have sent the market back to lamination," he says.
Hoeft is also getting a lot of interest in Korad from the fiberglass industry. Acrylic film can be placed on top of the fiberglass sheet, ensuring that the glass fibers do not rise to the surface, while also making it UV stable and giving the sheet a shiny, glossy surface.
As well as expanding his company and growing the Korad business, Hoeft is seeking to extend his product line and to diversify his group of suppliers. He is looking at a new product that combines aluminum foil with a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU).
He will be offering too an aliphatic TPU film. This is a weatherable and light-stable product (standard TPU will turn yellow under UV light) that is used as a skin on dashboards of convertible cars, and for car interiors.
Hoeft says that although this is a relatively new product line for his company, he expects strong growth as the sector is booming at high double-digit figures. Asked how he can compete with other, larger film distributors, Hoeft believes he has an advantage because of his "wide and specialized" product offering.
Spartech is the world's sole producer of extremely thin yet wide width (10ft or 3.05m) acrylic film. It is also unique in selling opaque and colored film.
Hoeft says that being small and flexible means that he has the possibility to partner with others and to form a network across Europe, bringing together different expertise and knowhow.
ASP-Hoeft is expanding fast. The company works internationally with either freelance salespeople or in strategic alliances with firms that are also active in the field of surface materials.
ASP-Hoeft has 11 salespeople in Europe as well as cooperation agreements with firms in Austria (CE-Tec), Switzerland (Colorplastic), Italy (Fotomark), Turkey (Jartek Teknik) and Poland (Biuro Handlowe Bis).
Hoeft says he is still looking for candidates to partner in Spain and the UK, as well as another sales person and a technical/commercial expert.
For more information on the company, visit its website at www.asp-hoeft.de
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