History of the company
Oxipack’s leak detection test equipment is unique. People in the packaging sector are amazed at how even the smallest leaks can be detected. This is actually achieved by using pressure differences in and around the packaging. Why is this method, that works so effectively, not better known about?
The basic procedure was developed last century in a creative electronics workshop on the third floor behind the coffee roasting plant of Douwe Egberts/Sara Lee on the Keulse Kade in Utrecht. This method was made exclusive use of by Douwe Egberts for decades. That is why this method was not known about anywhere else. The head of the workshop was Thijs Aarts, an exceptional inventor who was very creative. Whilst walking around the coffee roasting plant he talked to the production personnel. He could see how things could be done differently and set out to find solutions. He was ably assisted by an instrument maker, Arjan Smit, who was by nature solutions orientated, practical, meticulous and tenacious. They made a good team: Arjan constructed what Thijs thought up and translated the bright ideas for measuring pressure differences into fully functioning equipment. “Thijs was tremendously inventive and had the talent to spot something that could only really be brought to fruition over a 20 or 30 year period. He was visionary” is how Arjan describes him. Arjan himself primarily focused on working out the fine details of a solution. Using trial and error they developed in-line and off-line measurement methods for all types of coffee packaging for Douwe Egberts: vacuum packs and bags of all dimensions, flexible packaging and Senseo coffee pods packaging. All of this without damaging the packaging.
Investment of EUR millions
One of the elementary procedures was based on the following thought: if there is a leak in vacuum packaging, air moves from outside to inside and the pressure changes. Thijs thought that to detect a leak, you would have to determine the change in air pressure and/or exchange of air, in the packaging itself and the area immediately around it.
Thanks in part to a great deal of research and development subsidies, the R&D group were given time and space to develop the ultimate method of measurement.
The company also invested EUR millions. The company had fifty packaging machines running that were continuously producing vacuum packed bags of coffee. Leaking packaging was a recurrent problem. The leak detection solutions that Thijs and Arjan developed were made use of for quite a few years on a number of packaging machines at the coffee roasting company. But there were not used universally. Sometimes their solutions went a bit further than the company requested at that time. They were ahead of their time.
Their own leak detection company
The workshop was disbanded during a reorganisation. Developing leak detection solutions was no longer a priority. But for Arjan Smit it was not the end, he was committed to it. Packaging people would ask him for advice now and again but as an employee he could and would not really involve himself. What to do next? Was this the point in time to realise his dream? Was it still possible? Because nobody actually knew about the ingenious plans that had been developed in the workshop behind the coffee roasting plant, nobody made use of them. Meanwhile large amounts of food were being wasted all over the world due to less precise leak detection methods that makes the products unfit for sale. If only he could sit back and take time to work out his original ideas and create a device that measures very precisely, always works and never breaks down. The entire packaging industry could make use of this invention surely?
The ultimate leak tester
Arjan worked non-stop in his attic, whistling while he worked. After three years of hard work he was able to make Thijs Aarts’ ideas a reality, but with his own version, with a different look and feel that could easily be installed in a production line. It was the best possible design. Interested parties could hardly believe that equipment existed that could detect such small leaks. They had thought that their problem was insoluble! There were people ready to buy the equipment and commissions were placed for development. Even the coffee roasting company came knocking on his door asking for help with leak detection on a new packaging concept. This was how Arjan Smit started up Oxipack leak detection in 2010.
“I had always known this was something big. Its such a pity that this detection solution was not made more extensive use of. Millions have been invested in it, including money from government. Other companies can now benefit from our knowledge and inventions.”
As soon as one of his sons and a former colleague realised that Arjan was serious about setting up his own innovative leak detection company, they decided to take the plunge with him. His son, Serge Smit, brought a raft of commercial experience with him including project management whilst former research colleague, Pim Jobse, had extensive experience in the development of prototypes and test equipment. They complemented one another in business and personal terms. They moved in to premises in Bunnik and attended a packaging trade show. At this trade show they were discovered by packaging companies from around the world who were desperately looking for an improved leak detection system. They extended their product range, sent out their equipment to various parts of the world and Arjan, Pim and Serge travelled to Düsseldorf, Paris, Naples, Bern and London and on to Johannesburg, Moskow, Toronto and Singapore to offer advice about implementing their leak detection method.
In addition to stand alone equipment, now in-line leak detection solutions can also be supplied. Larger premises are required to do this, so five years after being founded the company has moved. The company’s new premises in Houten offers the extra space required for the development, testing and manufacturing of in-line installations.
The team is bolstered by technical specialists who can build the measuring equipment, prototypes and test rigs.
Knowledge partner in leak detection
Oxipack is now able to allow everyone who wants to produce leak free packaging, access to the experience in the area of non-destructive leak detection that Douwe Egberts/Sara Lee invested millions in. World renowned international brands and small scale packaging companies, in the Netherlands and further afield, can now benefit from this expertise. In this way a young, inventive company can be your knowledge partner in leak detection.