An article by Slobodan Ocokoljic
I have met Mr. Dante Valenti while working as interpreter for his company, the Tek in Pek from Imola. He needed to sale packaging machine to a foreign client and I have help them during the negotiation process.
I was amazed by the fact that with a portfolio of 20 patents, 40 years of experience, and truly global coverage with his inventions, Mr. Valenti is just a regular engineer that loves innovation and enjoy to solve problems. Therefore, I wanted to interview him here in order to understand in more details what is the innovation for entrepreneur that is the undercover hero of dynamical constant innovation. Also, I wanted to understand how a micro enterprise Tek in Pek manage the process of innovation that is responsible for some major breakthrough in the global packaging industry.
Small warehouse in Imola’s industrial area is a headquarter of inventor that has made this city famous. The valley of packaging as the local and global players in packaging industry know Imola was born in the head of this man. Quiet, polite, workaholic engineer, that enjoys to breath live into metal. After few minutes of conversation with Mr. Dante it is easy to understand why 40 years ago, as he told me, he took his pen and left IMA S.p.a. (one of the biggest local multinationals). This gentlemen do not like to argue, he is not into politics, and he is not just into making money, but making innovative and sustainable solutions. This man is an innovator at its best. So, he knew that the resources that counts (innovation ingenuity) are on his side and he started his own enterprise dedicated to constant innovation.
During this 40 years of continuous innovation he created all kinds of machines for packaging, from corrugated cardboard to polypropylene. Presently Tek in Pak is world leader in design and production of machines for manufacturing of special die cutting dies for the hot stamping of die cut products with sealed flutes.
Here are the Q&A from the interview we had with Mr. Dante Valenti earlier this week.
About the products
Q – What is the smart part (added value) of your products?
A – After I left the corrugated board packaging industry I have searched new materials for packaging and discovered polypropylene. Here the major innovation introduced was the system that I have invented for a hot air sealing of die cut products (so called Vame system). This was a major breakthrough for the industry and the product was welcomed with success in the international market. This system allows closing the sides of boards making the material sterilised and utilised in different steps during the pelletisation process e.g. bottle and jar separator. Moreover, polypropylene is highly resistant, depending on the thickness of material combined it can be much more resistant than wood or even metal.
The peculiarity of the sealing process of Tek in Pak machines is that no smoke is made because the sealing is not touching the cartonplast sheet and this way the thickness of the sheet at the edges on the whole perimeter is kept the same as the original sheet thickness.
Box pallets made of this material are easily folding if edging is correctly designed and this can lead to enormous savings in the transatlantic transportation industry because the palette our machines made are reusable, they do not have to be treated with protective paint for wood or metal and after the delivery they can be compressed to 6 time smaller size, which leaves a lot of space for other shipping to be made. In US they are using our machines to produce the protection from tornadoes which is replacing the wooden protection used until now.
The products made of polypropylene are recyclable, environmentally friendly and ideal for industry because this material:
Emits less CO2 emissions during production when compared with other materials
Ensures the total recyclability at the end of the product life
Ensures high chemical resistance and high outdoor durability
Is sterilize and has natural water repellency
Is resistant to acid, alkaline and salt solutions, and as well bacteria, mold and algae resistant
Is lightweight and customisable: thickness, weight, color, etc..
Is printable: screen printing, digital and flexo printing
As well, we are searching a business partner that would work with us on commercialization of the highly resistant and lightweight polypropylene rucksack I have registered as utility patent in December 2016. This rucksack is entirely printable, it requires less material for production than other similar products because it uses hot air sealing.
Ho anche progettato e brevettato una soluzione innovativa per eliminare rifiuti e inquinamento prodotto dalle attuali capsule utilizzate per le macchine da caffè. Inoltre questo prodotto permette al consumatore di elaborare personalmente la miscela di caffè.
Q – How did you get the idea?
A – Innovative products are always born out of the strong research spirit and the capacity of realizing solutions.
Q – How did you get the funds for realization of your ideas
A – By my opinion in Italy, financial instruments are reserved for Multinational Companies that are able to lobby to get the state and bank funds. I was never approved an application for product development and all of my products are realized with self-financing and loans.
Q – What were the key barriers (administrative, operational, technical, financial)
A – Once I have finished the detailed prototype design of the machine or other products the biggest obstacle is finding a way to finance further development and application of the solution and to commercialize the idea. Therefore, we are still engineering design studio and the production process is left to other global companies.
Q – If any, how was the support from the development institutions/agencies (city/province/region/country/global)
A – We did not received any support whatsoever.
Q – Are you a part of/do you have plans to make public-private partnerships? (Universities, incubators, clusters)
A – No.
Q – Do you plan to apply/have you already applied for HORIZON 2020 entrepreneurship/innovation support programs?
A – I am not planning to apply for such funds.
Q – Inhouse or outsourced business consultancy/grant application management?
A – Our products are truly globally presented and we have our machines from US, Mexico, Japan, Bulgaria, Italy, Russia, France, Peru. We worked with some multinationals such as Procter & Gamble but we are only engineering design studio and all management and consultancy processes are done in-house.
Q – Are you planning to internationalize?
A – 90% of our products is sold on the foreign markets, among which African countries, US, Japan, Asia, Europe, but we are not present in China and Balkans.
Q – Are you willing to pay for the market analysis?
A – Yes I would, but in reality, since we are a microfirm and we do not have means for hiring consultancy firms I do market analysis by myself. The principle is next. I am doing my best to be present, alone or with firms that are producing my machines internationally, on biggest global fairs in this industry. There I have a chance to see the latest global trends and needs and to present my products.
In this way I am able to analyse the competition and to prepare machines that suits the need of the market.
Q – How would you define innovation?
A – Innovation is driven by the spirit of research and experimentation and concertized with the capacity for implementation. When developing a new innovative product you must never forget costs and time it needs to be created.
Q – What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?
A – In partnership with one US company we are presently working on the solution for innovative product made from folding polypropylene blocks and sealed with our hot air method. So, continuous implementation of our approach that have clear market value is our strategy for the future. We are also working on variety of solutions of box pallets for US market. However, I have noticed the trend that underdeveloped countries are those more focused on innovation because this gives them opportunity to catch up and maybe outrun developed countries. That is why I am currently negotiating to export some of my newest machines in Kenya and Ecuador.
Q – How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture, and how is it being optimized.
A – The best way to make your company innovative is to be open for new solutions and to visit and discover other markets, in this way you can understand market needs and consequently design a suitable solution for that needs.
Q – If you could hire few new people (to develop a product of your dreams what unconventional skills would they have?
A – I do not know who I could need to develop the products of my dreams but in order to continue to work on present machines I need accountant, engineer and production facility.
Q – What can your company offer for free that no one else does?
A – We can offer young people, if they are interested to do internship with us, and to experience the pleasure of making something out of nothing, because that what engineering is, it is breathing life in what before was just a bunch of metal and having the pleasure of seeing it working and producing something useful.