Interview with Wanda Stypułkowska - President of MPS International
Do the Swedish roots of the company translate into its current operation?
Definitely yes. They are very important for the work culture of our company and the strategy we implement. They are just in our DNA. At the turn of 1991 and 1992, when our company was established in Koszalin, here in Poland, we did not have much experience in cooperation with Western companies. It was one of the first foreign companies in our country. Therefore, the staff that then joined us had been trained by the Swedes. I am one of the people who have been working here from the very beginning and I was part of that first team.
One of the elements of the Scandinavian approach was, for example, what we now call corporate social responsibility. We didn't call it that back then, we just acted that way. It was just the spirit that had been born naturally in our company.
The approach to protecting the environment was also very important. When we launched the production of packaging in 1992, we were probably the only company in Poland that clearly declared that it would not produce PVC packaging, which was the most popular type of packaging at that time. Now we all know this technology is highly harmful to the environment. Thanks to the Swedish patterns, however, we were several years ahead of what was happening in Poland in this and many other areas.
In CSR activities, you emphasize your pro-ecological attitude - what specific activities are carried out in this respect?
In the mid-90s, we implemented the ISO 140001 standard, which concerns environmental protection. Since then, we have declared to constantly reduce the negative impact of our activities on the environment.
First of all, we make sure that our products, e.g. plastic bottles, are produced in the most ecological way - they are always made of recyclable materials. We use, for example, post industrial recycling, i.e. waste that we process and re-add to base materials. We have been doing it practically from the very beginning, the moment these technologies came into being. We have also been always looking for other materials that would be even more ecological. We have already extensive experience in this field, but are still willing to develop, so as to always adapt to the existing requirements.
In addition, we also have our own sewage pretreatment plant, which allows us to introduce it back into the system in such a way as not to affect the quality of municipal sewage. We have also been sorting our waste for many years. One of our recent projects is an apiary built on the premises of the company, the creation of which was a grassroots initiative of some of our employees. What I particularly appreciate about our company that there is a group of people who are very active in various, including ecological, areas. I am really happy when such initiatives come from within the company, from the team, and are not enforced by the management.
Which branch of the MPS business is crucial and developing the best at the moment?
Our activity is based on three pillars - the production of packaging, cosmetics and household chemicals. I try to manage the company in a way that enables me to treat these areas equally. Experience has shown that this is an effective strategy which allows our company to be doing quite well in the pandemic times. In times of crisis, various strategies are verified. Of course, these three pillars bring the company a different level of income at different times, but while always developing, they enable us to adopt to any situation.
Do you observe any interesting trends in the cosmetics market at the moment?
In addition to managing the MPS company, I am also the president of the Polish Union of the Cosmetics Industry, so when it comes to this industry, I have a fairly wide view of the situation. In the early days of the pandemic, cosmetic companies experienced dramatic impact on their business; for some was a very strong blow. The survey which was conducted in the spring showed that one third of companies in this sector were seriously affected by the negative impact of the pandemic, and as many as half of them significantly reduced their activities. Some companies, looking for solutions, started to produce disinfectants, and this somehow improved their status. Among the companies that suffered the most were mainly those producing luxury cosmetics and beauty products.
MPS is in fact a producer of skin care products, including soaps, so we could virtually feel no impact of the pandemic on our business. If any, there was only a greater demand for packaging, so here we recorded an increase in sales. There was the same case with disinfection products, which have always been present in our offer anyway.
How does MPS cooperate with other entities?
It is worth mentioning here that we do not sell the product, but offer our clients a cosmetic production service. This includes, among others, developing a recipe, qualitative and functional tests, and then the entire production process. Depending on what a given client needs, the scope of these activities may be narrower or wider. We build relationships with our clients at various levels, and it brings good results.
How is the company doing on foreign markets? Are there any plans to expand business for foreign entities?
As much as 60 percent our revenues come from what we broadly understand as export. Due to our roots, we have a strong presence in Scandinavia. We have had an easy and natural way there and we have earned a very good reputation in the Scandinavian countries. That where we have the largest share of the market. Besides, we sell well in Great Britain, Benelux countries, and have recently we started cooperation with one of the German companies. Our western neighbor's market, although interesting, is nevertheless quite specific and difficult. The biggest difficulty is establishing cooperation, once it’s done things usually go smoothly. In my experience, however, it is a tightly closed market, although of course as a country we have very large exports to Germany.
Has the company recently introduced any innovative recipes or solutions that are the result of the work of the R&D department?
To start with, we are a service provider and we offer what the client needs. Innovations in the field of ecology and fast implementation of EU regulations are extremely important for our Scandinavian customers. They are leaders in these matters. In Sweden all this happens much faster than in other European countries, so the local client coming to us expects us to be up-to-date in this area. We try to be up acquinted with all the news, but at the same time we use the knowledge of our contractors. It is always common work when it comes to new ideas.
The market is so dynamic at the moment that often our clients, who already know the industry, come to us and admit that they are not keeping up with this pace of changes. They expect new inspirations and proposals from us. And we, as their contractor, must create solutions efficiently so that they will enable them to stay ahead of the competition in this race.
How has the pandemic affected the cleaning products market?
We had products for disinfection on a permanent basis, and a large stock of them at the time of the outbreak of the pandemic. So in the first period, we had products that we could put on the market right away. However, I would not see any dynamic business development in this area, because many companies have followed this path. At that time, the Office for Registration of Medicinal Products, Medical Devices and Biocidal Products launched the so-called fast track and suddenly, at once, about 2,000 new products were registered, with 400 already existing. Competition became enormous, and the state also contributed to it by launching its own production, for example in Orlen. Today, despite the fact that the demand for these products is much greater than it used to be, I do not see room for a bigger, leap success here.
However, looking ahead - this is an area that we want and will develop. In addition to the hand sanitizer under the name Antiseptus, we have already implemented a hard surface sanitizer on the same line and we have a few more ideas in this regard. It is also about care products. When we frequently use disinfectants, our skin suffers and the need for more effective care products increases.
How did the pandemic affect everyday functioning, factory work, etc.?
We are in a better position than other industries because strict hygienic standards are a norm in our company. The production of cosmetics is very sensitive to various types of contamination.
We only introduced additional safeguards against the spread of a possible epidemic in the plant - we separated production departments, we also shortened the working time so that employees of one shift did not meet those from the other. We delimit public places, e.g. toilets, which are currently only intended for certain production areas. In the places where social distancing has not been guaranteed, workers must wear masks or shields. I am convinced that we are well protected and that even if some cases of illness appear, it will not affect the functioning of the entire company.
Is there any significant business success that the company would say it is proud of?
We have been on the market for almost 30 years and we have been growing steadily all this time. Our first client is still with us today. Most of our most important customers and clients have been working with us for several years. In the nearest future, we cannot see anything that might change in this respect. This is what I consider our great success.
What are the challenges in the near term and what are the plans in the long term?
The whole environment, being so dynamic and surprising, is a challenge. At the moment, the regulations related to ecology are restrictive, and the deadlines for their implementation are very short, so you need to act extremely quickly. Besides, in today's cosmetics industry, the product has a short life span - it used to be on the shelf for three years, and now even two years are long enough. Customers constantly expect new things in our industry, but I see it not only as a challenge but also as an opportunity.
We provide services to those entities that have been offering their own brands for years and know what they want, but are often unable to work on multiple solutions simultaneously. They then look for a service provider who can support them. That is why we have already made a decision some time ago to expand the laboratory facilities and this year the investment has been completed. We now have very comfortable working conditions for the development department and we are looking for new employees to work in this department. We believe that in the near future research and innovation will be the very element that will be the engine for our company and will strongly drive our business to grow further .