30 years at the service of Beauty Professionals” is the slogan of Alfaparf Group, one of the leading Italian cosmetics groups in the world and proprietor of top international brands. For the “Beauty and Businessbrand of Alfaparf, Marchesini Group has created a complete line for filling and packaging hair colour kits: a cutting edge robotic line, featuring cutting-edge solutions, capable of promptly meeting the needs of the constantly evolving cosmetics industry.
Before we explain the line and all of its innovations in detail, let’s take a closer look at Alfaparf, whose headquarters is located Osio Sotto (Bergamo), Italy, where we met Eng. Pasquale Ingravalle, Corporate Operation Director of Alfaparf Milan.

Alfaparf, a leader of the worldwide cosmetics industry

Founded about thirty years ago by Roberto Franchina as a company specialising in hair colour products, Alfaparf won success over the years becoming one of the leading cosmetics groups in the world. Its top position on the worldwide cosmetics marketplace was achieved by combining the renowned Italian style and creativity with the skills to grasp international trends, innovation, scientific research and quality of the products and services. A story of Italian success therefore, which turned a small business into one of the main Italian multinational enterprises of the cosmetics industry.
The Group boasts roughly 300 thousand professional clients across the world and is the proprietor of top international brands: Alfaparf Milan and Yellow (professional haircare), Dibi, Dibi Center, Becos Club, Fisiosphere and TeN (professional skincare), Beauty and Business (contracted production) and industrial partner of some of the most important cosmetics groups worldwide.
A constantly growing enterprise which, in addition to 2 international research laboratories, has 5 production factories (in addition to that in Italy, one in Brazil, Mexico, China and Venezuela), 28 sales branches over 5 continents and an extensive distribution network in over 80 countries.
We spoke to Pasquale Ingravalle, Corporate Operation Director of Alfaparf Milan, about Alfaparf Group, about the cosmetics market and about the business relationship with Marchesini that lead to creating the line for hair colour kits.

Q: Mr. Ingravalle, first and foremost, could you tell us briefly what is Alfaparf’s mission?
R: Alfaparf is a family-run Italian business that for thirty years, as the Group’s slogan says, is at the service of Beauty Professionals. It made its mark producing haircare products and over the years developed into other ranges of skincare products, focusing mainly on hairdressers and beauticians. We produce for the national industry, for that of Europe, Asia, the United States and Latin America. The factories abroad produce product ranges for their specific markets: hence, the target of these investments is not that of outsourcing production, but that of getting strategically closer to the marketplaces where we do business.

Q: How has Alfapart developed over recent years, which strategies were pinpointed? What’s the Group’s state of health today?
R. The group is growing progressively but quickly, especially in countries such as Latin and Central America. Over the past several years our turnover has increased continuously. Two years ago, Alfaparf acquired GTS, a leading company of skincare product brands; this strategic acquisition allowed us to complete the Group’s production range. Furthermore, for some years now, Alfaparf has been developing its contracting business area, producing its own brands and contracted products. The investment made for the hair colour line by Marchesini is part of the group’s strategies developed for the contracting business.

Q. How did you face up to the crisis of the market over recent years?
R. The Group was not particularly affected by the crisis, also in view of its diversified production range developed in different geographic areas. Alfaparf has never ceased investing strongly in research and development and over the past three years it has doubled the extension of the main factories of the group (Italy, Brazil and Mexico) and has opened new production facilities: a non-stop upward trend, and in fact, further investments are planned with this in mind.

Q. How did your business relationship with Marchesini Group begin and what convinced you to invest in a packaging line for hair colour kits?
R. Alfaparf had already dealt with Marchesini years ago, but the project that lead to the hair colour line gave way to a new important phase of the relationship with the Group from Pianoro. Our aim was to bet on a cutting edge and innovative high speed line, capable of managing a complex product, as are hair colour kits, in view of the fact that they involve a number of components: it is a strategic investment for our company’s contracting business area, which is part of our “Beauty and Business” brand. We preferred Marchesini because they are able to supply us with a turnkey plant and because they have the technological expertise to meet our production requirements.

Q. What convinced you to choose Marchesini?
R. A number of reasons. First and foremost, Marchesini – just like Alfaparf – is a name renowned worldwide, it’s an Italian company, and family-run, but also a “global” enterprise: Alfaparf is a global cosmetics company that works on a constantly evolving market and that consequently chooses “global” partners. What’s more, a key factor was to have just one reference contact for this line and Marchesini is able to supply everything we need. Also important is the Group’s technological expertise and the worldwide service that Marchesini is able to guarantee and it’s indubitably not by chance that we have assigned new projects to Marchesini. Finally, the “made-in-Italy” choice has its added value, especially in the world of cosmetics: top names do indeed greatly appreciate this aspect.

Q. A comment on Marchesini’s line?
R. This line packages hair colour kits produced by one of our major clients, and a renowned brand. It was started-up in April 2011 and is designed to package a technically complex product: the pack in fact contains a number of components and that’s why we are talking about an innovative line that exploits robotics: investing in robotics and automation, especially to manage mass production volumes and particularly intricate products, is crucial and we are convinced that we made the right choice with this line, which is strategic for the company’s needs.

The hair colour kit line by Marchesini: in the name of innovation

The complete line for filling and packaging hair colour kits made by Marchesini for Alfaparf consists of a number of machines:

- Sirio 3 Vial unscrambler and feeder
- ML661/8 Filler/capper
- RE202 Rotary labeller
- MILL200 Tube filler
- MS235 Sachet filler
- MA255 Continuous motion cartoner
- MCP840 Case packer and palletizer

A single-size line, for a box measuring 90*70*170 mm, containing a number of components:

- a plastic bottle (40/75 ml) with screw-on cap
- a plastic container with gloves
- a sachet with one type of cream (15 ml)
- a sachet with another type of cream (20 ml)
- an aluminium tube with cream
- a pre-folded instruction leaflet

The box filled with all the kit’s components is subsequently packaged in case and finally palletized.

The line is able to process 150 packages per minute and features a variety of robotic solutions to ensure reliable and proficient management of the packaging process as well as high production speeds.

The chain conveyor that carries the product to the cartoner consists of special shaped pucks on which the various robots place the components making up the hair colour kit to be packaged: the infeeds that take the product to the cartoner MA255 are indeed entirely robotic.
First and foremost, there is a Robocombi machine downstream from the MILL200 unit, which picks-up 2 tubes at a time and feeds them turned by 90 degrees into the conveyor pucks.
Two Robocombi machines then pick-up and feed the two types of sachets. These feeders are linked by a steel bucket conveyor and have two different functions: one Robocombi picks-up the six sachets incoming from the sachet filler MS235 (3 of 20 ml and 3 of 15 ml) and places them on a steel belt, which conveys them towards the first robot with buffer; the other Robocombi on the other hand picks-up the incoming sachets and puts them directly into the pucks. This solution guarantees high production speeds, just one feeder for two products (the 20 and 15 ml sachets), in addition to the possibility to recover the sachets from the buffer without line stoppages.

A special Robocombi installed on the cartoner subsequently picks-up all the components simultaneously and places them in the box.

At the end, the boxes reach the casepacker and palletizer MCP840, which packs them in case and then on pallets: the Gigacombi robot picks-up the case and places it on the pallet according to a layout saved on the machine’s PC. The pallets can be loaded and unloaded manually or automatically.

This line definitely makes robotics one of its strongholds. This confirms that robotic solutions compared with conventional infeed systems are particularly appreciated, because they are able to guarantee utmost flexibility and versatility in handling the product, of any shape and size: thanks indeed to the robotic solutions, the product can be aligned perfectly to fully exploit the whole box.