Passot Innovation is exemplary for how products can be manufactured in Europe economically and competitively. All stages of the production carried out under one roof, high flexibility and short decision-making processes are what characterise the family company and contribute towards the company’s recipe for success.
“A few years ago, so-called ‘green products’ were the big trend on the market. Sustainability still plays a big role today, but in the meantime other aspects have become equally significant – i.e. the question as to where an article was produced,” confirmed Bertrand Passot, CEO of Passot Innovation. And products “made in France” have become a valuable asset for the company: In its factory in Le Coteau near Roanne on the Loire, Passot Innovation manufactures a wide selection of promotional products made of plastic – and they have been doing so for almost 40 years.
“We are a 100% family-run business,” stated Passot, who together with his three brothers holds all shares of the firm. “We were always able to make fast decisions and react fast and flexibly to the developments on the market.” Two of Passot’s three brothers and his wife work at the company, which was founded in 1975 by Bertrand Passot’s parents André and Monique Passot. “Strictly speaking my father entered the promotional products market in 1963 when he started selling key fobs, however then he worked in a different branch of industry for several years. He returned to the sector when he founded Passot Import which later became Passot Innovation. We were a manufacturing and assembling company. Then, in 1985 – two years before I joined the company – we started to import goods from the Far East as well. However, the main focus has always been placed on production and here our maxim was and still is: We want to be autonomous.”
Everything from one source
Indeed: All of the work phases involved in the production of the plastic promotional products takes place in Le Coteau. The premises covering in total 7,500 m² accommodates offices, a showroom and the administration department, the warehouse, printing shop, injection moulding department and an own tool-making shop. This is where Passot Innovation produces all of the moulds for the injection moulding process using cutting-edge machines. All moulds that are not currently in use are stored in a specially secured part of the building, because they are one of the company’s biggest investments. “Running one’s own tool-making shop is very cost-intensive, however for us it is essential,” explained Passot.
To a large extent, the in some cases extremely large injection moulding machines – the biggest one has a clamping force of 3,200 kN – operate autonomously, from the transport of the plastic granulate, to the injection moulding process controls and the ejection of the finished parts, through to the collection of the casting sprues that are later recycled. “The waste that ensues during the injection moulding process is shredded directly on-site and reused,” said Passot. “Furthermore, we store a high volume of granulate so that we can process big orders immediately.“ Incidentally, the company also offers its services as a tool manufacturer and injection moulder available to external companies.
All products that Passot sells – including imported goods – are customised in Le Coteau. All of the conventional technologies are available, whereby many of the machines have been strongly modified to suit the company’s own specific requirements. For example, Passot Innovation manufactured a special steel carrying tray for a six-colour pad printing machine. With the aid of this tailor-made transport system, a dozen shopping trolley chips can be multicolour imprinted in a short space of time. “We sell around 5 mil. shopping trolley chips a year,” stated Passot. “That is the only thing the printing machine imprints all day. We have constructed similar carrying systems for almost all of our machines – having our own mould-making department certainly pays off here too. We have even built entire machines ourselves, such as a simple screen printing carousel for manual operation, which suffices completely for our needs, or a machine used to flame drink pouches made of polypropylene prior to imprinting.“ Further own developments include for example an exposure cabinet with a drawer system that allows several printing screens to be exposed simultaneously, as well as a drying cabinet for domings, which guarantees a completely dust-free environment. The air pressure in the entire printing department is slightly higher in order to minimise the amount of dust that circulates in the air. Passot: “Of course, we are more expensive than printing shops in Eastern Europe or China. So, we have to provide a perfect result, the quality of the products has to be excellent.“
However, quality is not the only advantage that Passot Innovation can offer – the company also boasts fast delivery times: “Our warehouse has the capacity to store around 8,000 Euro pallets. We deliver non-customised products within two days, depending on the order volume customised goods are delivered within one week.“
A further USP: The production process, which encompasses all of the work phases, enables the fast and simple realisation of own designs. “The majority of our plastic products are patented designs. The same applies here that generally counts when it comes down to design: Good products are often simple, but somebody still has to initially come with the idea for simple things,” explained Passot. “We work together with external designers, who broadly speaking have to meet two prerequisites: the product has to have a printable surface and low costs are a must.“
In this way, in some cases the prices of the products developed are lower than those for items from the Far East, whereby the quality is much higher, as Passot reported: “We have a shopping trolley chip with chip holder in our lineup that is made out of a special, flexible plastic mix. We have not only invested a lot of time in design, the manufacturing process also has to be monitored – that is not possible in China.“ Of course, there are products that can’t be manufactured in France and here Passot Innovation relies on the import business as its second pillar. “But we are also successively increasing the number of own designs for the products that we import,” commented Passot.
A claim that is reflected by the brand name Pi design, under which Passot Innovation has been marketing its products since 2010. “We exclusively cooperate with promotional products distributors,” explained Passot. “The user only sees the brand name.“
In addition to the main catalogue that is published once a year in two languages, the company recently introduced a special catalogue containing all of the products that are made in France. This appears as a French version called La France en Cadeaux (“France in Gifts”) as well as a version especially for the export: Europe as a Gift. Passot: “In future, we aim to strengthen our presence outside of France. Because the fact that we manufacture goods in France doesn’t just go down well here, but also abroad.” A trend that will no doubt continue.
An interview with two French service providers can be found here: “Good opportunities for foreign suppliers”