Astrapak taking quality to the next level

Astrapak Group SHEQ Manager, Helmien Raath.

Astrapak Group SHEQ Manager, Helmien Raath.


As global markets become more saturated with varying sizes of manufacturers, the challenge that meets market leaders like Astrapak is differentiating themselves by offering customers value above expectation. Astrapak has identified numerous opportunities to set themselves apart in a competitive plastic packaging industry, with two of their key pursuits being unequivocal focus on safety and quality.

At the helm of this responsibility is Helmien Raath who joined Astrapak in 2008 as the SHEQ Manager at the Plastop Bronkhorstspruit plant in Gauteng. Her success started with a specific and significant project that was already underway at the Marcom plant and in 2012 and her expertise was quickly recognised. As a result of Raath’s efforts to ensure all the standard processes, procedures and requirements as well as improvements were implemented and the turn around in place, Astrapak was finally awarded the business. Raath then went on to assist the other plants within the Group in setting up structures and implementing procedures.

With Astrapak then starting to standardise and co-ordinate their activities across the Group, the company wanted advice for a centralised approach for the SHEQ requirements as well. Raath proposed a Group strategy, which was approved and which required a Group SHEQ Manager to oversee the functions. Raath was a natural choice and she accepted the role in 2013 and has been forging ahead to implement a Group-wide management system with the aim of encouraging a high performance culture ever since.

To take Astrapak’s quality systems to the next level, Raath had to look at certain plants’ existing requirements in order to fine-tune her approach. “We identified that most of the plants required food safety accreditation, and therefore we focused them on attaining FSSC and ISO22000 certification.

“We also developed daily trackers so that we could be on top of customer complaints that were received throughout the Group. Tracking per specific customer allowed us to pinpoint the specific underlying issues, which enabled us to assist the plants by sharing problem solving techniques and putting a team in place to assist in minimising non-conformance throughout the Group.”

With a new intranet system being launched, all Astrapak’s plants will now have immediate access to all the necessary Policies and Procedures, whenever updates are available to ensure that they are working to the latest Group standards.

The recently installed Database Management System (DMS) will not only assist with managing planned maintenance, but has created monitoring systems, to track specific Group SHEQ targets such as zero waste to landfill.

In the next two to five years the roll out of the DMS system will ensure that all relevant SHEQ procedures and records are standardised and centralised across the Group. In this way, up to date overviews of the Group will be clearly visible to management at all times. This will enable the Group to better manage both quality and safety performance. “With regards to quality, we want to reduce the number of customer complaints and increase customer satisfaction scores, ensuring also that good quality products are going to market at all times. Likewise with respect to safety, it is our intention to continually reduce the risk of accidents and injury to staff in our operations.”

Astrapak’s group of companies are spread geographically across the country, so certain challenges arise in day-to-day Quality Control but Raath’s regular scheduled plant visits ensure that the plants all remain on the same path. “I travel frequently to the plants, which are based in the major centres in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.”

“We’ve created a team environment which our staff are excited to be part of and they fully support the Group’s vision,” continued Raath on how the staff’s attitude impacts on the quality output. “It is important to have a healthy team environment in order to achieve our goals and objectives. When they can see the benefit of doing things right the first time by following a well organized and structured document system, there is a sense of both pride and stability having the correct processes in place eliminate poor communication and loopholes in the system.”

Quality processes are strongly adhered to and Astrapak is accredited with ISO22000 for Food Safety, integrated with ISO9001:2008 for Quality and ISO 18000 for Health and Safety, subscribing to an all-encompassing set of standards and systems.

One of Astrapak’s primary goals is to create a safe working environment in all plants across the country, and to comply with all applicable legislation. Within the first six months in her new role, Raath was instrumental in improving the average Legal Compliance score by 21%. This improved once again by another 5% in 2014 and the initial target for 2015 was 93%. The Group is currently on track to achieve a Legal Compliance score of 95% - another great achievement.

Health and Safety is an important element of the Group function and in terms of the Health and Safety Act, a number of initiatives have been developed with great success. “The best part about it is that there is support from the top for these initiatives in Astrapak,” explains Raath. “Our CEO, Robin Moore, believes in safety first and we have a non-negotiable policy with regard to these requirements and standards.

“We have also rolled out Safety and Awareness “toolbox talks”, which cover different topics across the Group. These initiatives are rolled out to ensure that the plants are fully aware of the risks and take steps to be fully compliant.”

Another area of immediate focus for Raath and her team is the introduction of process control documentation, which will ensure proper start up procedures as well as quality checks and process control right through the supply chain up until the product is product is used and disposed of by the end user. “For starters, we need to produce a good, quality product utilising the correct settings for the machine and then monitoring the process performances in order to minimise waste, thereby ensuring good quality.”

There is a large drive towards overall cross functional sustainability to further reduce Astrapak’s carbon footprint with a new project being due to be rolled out in the coming months.

“Through these various initiatives, we believe that all our Customers will receive the assurance of our attention to detail and an all-encompassing approach to innovatively provide professional high quality products for discerning consumers.”