Founded in 1948, Styb looks back on a long tradition in the writing instrument production industry. With a production plant in Albacete, Spain, an own factory in China and export activities in around 80 countries, the company is a global player today.
A quick glance at the wood-panelled meeting room in Albacete makes it quite clear: Styb is a company with tradition. Numerous trophies, certificates and memorabilia document the long and turbulent history of the writing instrument manufacturer, which began in 1948. “We have remained a family company over the 67 years,“ explained José Carlos Sánchez Muliterno, CEO of Styb. “My grandfather, Juan Sanchez Navarro, founded the company here in Albacete in 1948. We started off manufacturing and repairing fountain pens, however, we also began producing ballpoint pens after just a few years – the technology was very new at the time.“
One of the many innovations that Sánchez Muliterno‘s father Eduardo, who ran the company in the second generation, introduced – this was followed by plastic injection moulding and the entry onto the promotional products market as a further sales market alongside the retail business. Thus, after its modest beginnings, the production evolved into a vertically organised factory over the decades. Finally, at the beginning of the 1980s, the company began to expand internationally. “My father ventured into the export business and renamed the company Styb – an acronym for ‘Stilografos y Boligrafos’ (fountain pens and ballpoint pens), which is easier for foreigners to pronounce,” said Sánchez Muliterno. “I joined the company in 1992, around the turn of the century, I took over responsibility for the operating business in my capacity as CEO. My brother Eduardo also came on board and has been responsible for the product development department ever since.“
Exports to 80 countries
At the beginning of the 21st Century, Styb had evolved into one of the biggest writing instrument manufacturers in Europe. At the same time, the company started producing rollerballs and the necessary liquid ink in-house – a further innovative step. “We are one of the few specialists in Europe, who are able to manufacture the rollerball systems,” explained Sánchez Muliterno. In addition to ballpoints, fountain pens and rollerballs, Styb also produces highlighters and felt tips today. Two thirds of the items produced are exported – to around 80 countries on five Continents. “In Europe our most important markets are Spain, France and Great Britain, further big sales markets are Morocco, Guatemala and primarily Mexico,” explained Sánchez Muliterno. “Just over half of our turnover is achieved through the retail business. Our largest retail customers include supermarket chains such as Leclerc and Auchan, particularly in the back-to-school season. In the B2B sector, we only deliver to distributors, not to end customers.“
Styb is not only globally-aligned in terms of the sales of its products, but also regarding their production: Of the around 100 mil. writing instruments that the company manufactures annually, today only around 10% are produced in Spain, the remaining 90% come from the Far East. “We too were affected by the developments on the global markets and the economic crisis. You have to give a market that is becoming more and more price-sensitive due to tighter budgets what it wants,” reported Sánchez Muliterno. Unlike almost all of his European competitors, who only buy in the Far East, Styb chose a different route and founded its own factory in Hangzhou, China in 2004. “It is quite simple: If one wants to be a manufacturer, one has to manufacture oneself,” explained Sánchez Muliterno. “The Hangzhou Styb Writing Inst. Co. is a 100% subsidiary with the legal form of a WFOE (Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise), and we have complete control over the entire production. In this way, we can produce at very competitive prices and can nevertheless guarantee the high-quality of our products in line with the high-standing of the traditional brand Styb. The factory was 1,000 m² when we began producing in Hangzhou, since last year the production was relocated to a new building that spans 5,500 m².“
As in Albacete, all of the work processes from the mould-making through to the individualisation take place under one roof in Hangzhou. Styb produces the ink and the refills exclusively in China, and this is also where most of the products are customised. The customising techniques available in Hangzhou include pad, transfer, screen and digital printing, 360° foil printing as well as laser engraving.
Innovation and know-how
In turn, a warehouse spanning 4,000 m² in Albacete guarantees high ability to deliver and short lead-times. If orders are very urgent, every-thing is produced in Spain. Some of the work processes are exclusively carried out at the Spanish location, which is certified by the Bureau Veritas in accordance with ISO 9001 (quality management) and 14001 (environmental management). Sánchez Muliterno: “We develop all of the designs together with the corresponding CAD architecture at the headquarters. The liquid ink for the rollerballs is also only produced in Spain, because the procedure is very complex.“ Not only the ink production process is the result of years of research work, also the assembly of the finished rollerballs requires extensive know-how and is carried out by an assembly machine that was developed in-house. This is just one example of numerous own developments in the machine sector that Styb has executed in Albacete.
In this way, the two production locations, where in total 350 employees work, enhance each other. “It wasn’t easy to make the move towards globalisation after decades as a ‘made in Spain’ manufacturer,“ admits Sánchez Muliterno. “However, this decision helped us through the crisis and made us fit for the future – also because we were able to enter new markets: For example, our subsidiary also supplies the Chinese domestic market.“ Just one of many exciting developments in a long history, which started off in 1948 with a small repair company.