A “small multinational contractor company” that, for over thirty years, has been creating and packaging fine alcohol perfumery and personal hygiene products, as well as cosmetic face and body treatments. Its name is ICR – Industrie Cosmetiche Riunite – a company founded in 1975 by Roberto Martone, who reached success over the years at International level as a reliable and esteemed partner of leading brand names in the cosmetics and fine alcohol perfumery industry associated with Italian fashion.
The enterprise has made major investments in research and development to be able to pursue all the creation phases of each product in the best way possible, but also in product packaging systems, investing in cutting-edge cosmetic and perfume packaging lines. One of the most interesting investments involves a complete line produced by the Marchesini Group for filling and packaging bottles of shampoo, bubble bath, body lotion and hair conditioner with different sizes. Marchesini and ICR worked side-by-side to devise the line, which we will describe later.
ICR, 30 years of “fashion” perfumes: history and production
ICR was created in 1975 by a very skilful and clairvoyant man, Roberto Martone, when the “made-in-Italy” name hit the perfume market (which until then had been overruled just by French fragrances): the Group was indeed set-up to produce and commercialise not just various types of cosmetics across the world but also top-of-the-range perfumes of famous Italian Fashion Designers; hence that of bringing the designer names of Italian fashion to the perfume segment was the winning hunch. In 1978, the first licensing contract was signed for Renato Balestra perfumes, followed in 1981 by that for the production and worldwide distribution of Trussardi fragrances. Over the following years, other prestigious names chose ICR for their licensing contracts in the perfume industry: Romeo Gigli, Gianni Versace, Gai Mattiolo, Roberto Cavalli, Blumarine, Blugirl, Custo, DSquared2 and Gianfranco Ferré. ICR became the worldwide exclusive production partner for international fashion stylists, such as Bulgari, Salvatore Ferragamo and Emanuel Ungaro.
In 1987, ICR transferred its offices, production plant and stocks from the original headquarters in Milan to an enormous location in Lodi (approximately 42 thousand square meters).
In this state-of-the-art building, the Group avails of cutting-edge plants, process equipment and machinery and packaging lines with impressive levels of automation and flexibility for all types of containers and for various sizes: the facilities have been extended and structured to offer contracting production and logistic activities at worldwide level. In this plant, the company produces and packages fine alcohol perfumery and personal hygiene products, as well as cosmetic face and body treatments. Sophisticated R&D laboratories enable ICR to cover the entire production process of each product: formulation, packaging and feasibility studies, project industrialization, stability and compatibility of the various ingredients and, in collaboration with university departments, also toxicological skin tolerance and effectiveness tests.
ICR, today: a continually growing business
Following the positive trend of the Italian cosmetics industry, which has shown a growth since the end of 2010 compared with the previous year, already in the first six months of 2011, ICR has confirmed a rise in the turnover by 25% and in production by 30% of finished pieces as opposed to 2010.
These positive figures prove the Group’s state of health, which is also confirmed by the founder and chairman of the Group himself, Roberto Martone, who we met in the Lodi factory.
- Mr. Martone, what’s the Group’s state of health? How did you cope with the international market crisis over recent years?
R. The Group’s business is good: there was a very quick, constant and progressive growth in production and turnover last year. ICR was not particularly affected by the crisis, even in the most critical year of 2009 and the Group still continued to invest in research and development. In 2010 our turnover grew by 10% (91.3 million Euro) compared with 2009 and recorded 63 million finished pieces produced compared with the 54 million of 2009. We have continued to grow even in 2011 and we will reach 90 million production pieces. We have more than 600 employees and our average yearly investments are worth 3 million Euro. All these figures confirm that the Group is healthy.
- Let’s talk about your partnership with Marchesini. Why did you choose Marchesini to supply you with a complete shampoo filling and packaging line?
R. First and foremost, we chose Marchesini because it is renowned worldwide for its undisputed technological expertise. The trust between ICR and the Marchesini Group – which are both family-run companies but also world-class enterprises – is another important reason for which we decided to choose the Group from Bologna as our supplier. It should also be pointed out that Marchesini’s technicians are highly professional and very helpful, offering assistance throughout all the realization and testing phases of the line.
- Could you tell us a little more about the complete shampoo line supplied by Marchesini last year?
R. The line fills and packages 40 and 75 ml bottles with shampoo for a known brand of perfumes: it’s a unique and hi-tech line that was created through joint efforts between ICR and Marchesini. It involves a strategic investment for the Group because it is designed for a new type of product, with the aim to reach 6 thousand finished products an hour for the 40 ml bottles and 5.5 thousand for the 75 ml bottles. We also have a Marchesini line for small sample perfume bottles. The most sophisticated lines that we have in our factory for large production batches are supplied by the group from Bologna.
The shampoo line of Marchesini
Marchesini supplied ICR with a complete shampoo line, from filling in bottles to packaging in cases, which is capable of processing 120 bottles per minute. The line consists of the following machines:
The product processed is a plastic bottle with two different sizes - 40 ml. and 75 ml. – with screw-on and flip top cap. The bottle is delivered by the mechanical feeder in pucks to the filling machine ML661, which exploits a special filling unit that adapts to the product’s viscosity. First and foremost, the product feeding hopper is controlled by a thermostat so that the liquid is kept at the correct temperature should the machine stop. Because the filling process involves a rather tricky liquid to handle, in view of its high degree of viscosity, a number of special solutions have been integrated in order to guarantee high performance, such as: larger pipes, Ketron Peek valves rather than ceramic valves, batching nozzles with air blowing cut-off valves to avoid soiling the bottle during filling.
As for the capping phase, the machine model ML661 initially screws the cap on to a preliminary 1 mm from the end of the full stroke. On the outlet, a unit with 3 screwing heads, each equipped with brushless motor, subsequently screws the cap on to the correct tightening torque. The use of brushless motors means that any anomalies in reaching the correct tightening torque can be controlled during the screwing phase.
Why did Marchesini devise a system with two capping stations? To be able to position the cap correctly because it has to be perfectly and exactly aligned with the lateral face of the bottle, and also to reach the end-of-stroke gently because, being a cosmetic product, it consequently has to be protected and handled very carefully.
Downstream from the filling machine there is a Neri labelling machine RA800, on which the PharmaSpec product inspection system is installed, which has 3 cameras: the first checks the arrival position and turns the bottle, if necessary, before the labels are applied; the second and third are positioned further forward and make sure the label has been printed and check the finished result of the labelled bottle. Furthermore, a de-ionization system eliminates any static electricity possibly generated during unwinding on the label reel.
The bottles are then packaged directly in cases by means of the Top Loading Casepacker MCV850, equipped with robotic infeed, which is extremely flexible yet very reliable. The bottles reach a Robocombi system that picks them up and places them on a transfer plate: once the plate is full, it traverses towards the pick-up head that picks up the whole layer of bottles and places it directly in the case. During the traversing phase, a second empty plate moves towards the Robocombi system, thus guaranteeing the full output of 120 bottles per minute. The empty pucks are finally sent back towards the head of the machine. The supply is completed by an in-between sheet inserter. 3 dividing sheets are placed between the layers to protect the bottles inside the case.
This line is consequently an impressively hi-tech solution capable of guaranteeing total protection and safeguard of the package throughout the whole process, step-by-step, in addition to precision and reliability in the filling, labelling and casepacking phases.