Built to last

Family-owned plastics maker Picnic retooled and thrived after its founder's death

It takes more than an heir to ensure business continuation. Restructuring the old ways to keep up with new demand and rapid market changes is equally important for the survival of a business.

Picnic’s 350-million-baht factory in Ayutthaya is the only facility in the country to receive the British Retail Consortium standard.

This was what the heirs of Picnic Plast Industrial Co's founder discovered when their father left them with a kitchen and household plastics company more than a decade ago.

Within a few years, they had reoriented away from labour-intensive manufacturing to become a value-added, design-focused firm while also applying various global standards.

"At first I doubted if the company should apply for the ISO 9000 certification, as it seemed so complicated and difficult," said Yuttana Thiamchivasin, one of the inheritors and a member of Picnic's board of directors.

"But then one accreditation led to another and really proved worthwhile in the following years."

The company also managed to obtain ISO 14000 and TS 16949 certifications, among others.

Yuttana: Revamp made the difference

Mr Yuttana and three siblings also made gradual changes to the production process, with cost control, management and marketing to accommodate new demand for their products.

"From the original production of tableware and household plastics under the old Picnic Ware brand, we revamped production and expanded research and development and design units to make high-value-added plastics," he said.

In addition, the company diversified into electronics, auto parts, industrial crates and food containers.

Last year, domestic plastics' share of total sales fell to 40%, as the remaining sales were generated by high-value-added plastics.

Labour-intensive work was replaced by efficient machinery.

Mr Yuttana said such moves helped to lower production losses to less than 1% from 5% 15 years ago.

In 2009, Picnic decided to move its production base to Ayutthaya from Bangkok, with a new 350-million-baht factory.

The plant is the only facility in the country to receive the British Retail Consortium standard (BRC), an international guarantee of quality, hygiene, safety and eco-friendliness _ aspects needed to flourish in European markets with higher-end customers.

"The BRC is like an entry ticket for us to expand our market and sell products in developed countries, particularly in Europe and East Asia," said Mr Yuttana.

This year, the company will focus on design and innovation, particularly food containers that are sturdy, anti-bacterial and free of carcinogens and leakages, with high-endurance lids tested to resist 300,000 times of opening and closing.

Marketed under the brand Clip Pac, these food containers have so far received a warm welcome in many areas of Europe despite the ongoing economic downturn.

The company expects total sales of plastic products this year to grow by 15% from 1 billion baht last year.

Some 10 million baht is being allocated for marketing in Thailand to support this goal.

Apart from the courage to undertake risks in restructuring the business, honesty has kept Picnic alive despite the playing field becoming infested with copycats from China and neighbouring countries.

"Although my dad retired, the most precious value he left behind for us to uphold was honesty," said Mr Yuttana. "If we promised someone we'd do something, we had to live up to it."

About the author

columnist
Writer: Yuthana Praiwan
Position: Business Reporter