CORRUGATED EXCELLENCE

Saudi Arabia 2016 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Eng. Meshari Al Jabr, General Manager of Gulf Carton Factory, on staying ahead of the competition and expectations for the future.

Eng. Meshari Al Jabr
BIOGRAPHY
Meshari Al Jabr received his bachelor’s degree in industrial systems engineering from King Fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals. He is a member of many social committees in Al Ahsa and the Al Ahsa chamber and is the Vice President of the Young Business Committee of Al Ahsa. Al Jabr has worked as general manager for the Gulf Carton Factory since 2009.

What is the advantage for your business that comes from being based in Saudi Arabia?

First of all, Saudi Arabia is still a young economy and we are confident that we can produce high-quality products that compete on the international market. For me as a manufacturer of corrugated cardboard, I am dealing with many industries—mainly food industries—including plastics and petrochemical factories, and many other sectors have witnessed the growth of other sectors in the county. As a corrugated cardboard manufacturer, I have the advantage that any business that is growing in Saudi Arabia needs to be packed, and that means that we plan to expand even more in the corrugated segment, and our competitors are also expanding and new manufacturers are joining the sector.

Competition in the market is growing. How do you ensure that your products are better than the competition?

We have fully state-of-the-art machinery, one of the best in the industry, and we are always developing and looking to address the needs and demands of the market and we develop our business accordingly. At the beginning we were only producing regular carton and now we are producing high-quality printed carton of different sizes. And we are also offering a number of different smaller products that other companies in the market may not be able to provide, such as assembled partitions. We have an automated assembly line to do partitions inside boxes, a type of packaging mostly used for storing glass bottles or jars, for example. We are adding more services to be able to offer our clients fully integrated solutions. Another example of additional services is waxing. Finally, printing is customized for each customer. Previously, the carton was viewed as just packaging material; however, now it is viewed as marketing material. For example, when I go to visit other companies, their marketing departments are more involved in the process, because companies are now demanding high-quality printed boxes.

How do you assess the opportunities in the Saudi market?

We are lucky to be working in this sector in the Saudi market, because we are dealing mostly with food products; therefore, regardless of the overall state of the economy, people need to eat and food manufacturing is always expanding. As suppliers of corrugated cardboard, we supply food factories, which account for a huge percentage of our customers and we are expanding with them. We foresee their needs and work toward that as well. We have significantly increased our annual sales between 10-25% over the past seven years. Of course, our competitors are also expanding, but the market and the demand is expanding as well, and with more people there is more need for food production, which results in the need for more corrugated cardboard packaging. The only challenge for me in regard to the economy of Saudi Arabia is to accommodate the latest technology and meet the needs of my customers, as well as to compete with other manufacturers in the market.

What are the main goals and expectations of Gulf Carton for 2016?

We have a yearly goal to undertake investments that will give us value added or add new products, and in 2016 we will add a new product. We will move Gulf Carton from focusing on corrugated cardboard to paper products in general. We are aiming to add paper bags to support corrugation, because we supply pizza boxes to restaurants, for example, and they often need additional paper products that are sourced from other paper suppliers, so we aim to be able to offer a total solution. We will be expanding our portfolio. We have made huge changes to our infrastructure, and now we are due to see the results of these changes. We have added a lot of converting machines, as well as new technologies and specialty machines, such as an assembly machine and a waxing machine. Today, we can meet the needs of any client.