Igb is the acronym of Industrie Grafiche Bressan. This firm, specialised in pharmaceutical and cosmetic packaging, was officially founded in the ’80s. In those years, Grafica Viggiù – a traditional printing company which grew quickly in the economic boom period – was bought out by one of the founders, Mr Dino Bressan, who changed its name into Igb. Dino Bressan himself conceived the development of the pharmaceutical and cosmetic packaging sector. Since the ‘90s, this activity drove the company to adopt the pharmaceutical production chain, so to be able to comply with the requests of the market in a more precise way.

Since 1999 the second generation of the Bressan family has been running the business. Its members have been implementing several processes so to improve processing procedures, technologies, but also individuals, as Alessio Bressan explains. Alessio is the founder’s eldest son and is also Chairman of the Management Board.

From the left, Ms Elisabetta Bressan (lawyer, Legal Department), Mr Michel Bressan (engineer, R&D), Mr Dino Bressan (Founder), Mr Alessio Bressan (Igb President)
From the left, Ms Elisabetta Bressan (lawyer, Legal Department), Mr Michel Bressan (engineer, R&D), Mr Dino Bressan (Founder), Mr Alessio Bressan (Igb President)

Mr Alessio Bressan, where did the idea of focusing on the pharmaceutical sector spring from?

Entrepreneurs are inclined to seize special chances: we simply took advantage of the proximity to Switzerland and in particular to Canton Ticino (Southern Switzerland) where a lot of pharmaceutical companies are based. This sector has peculiar needs, that is why these companies prefer to work with specialised firms. In productive processes there are scientific aspects a packaging producer has to take into account. Moreover this kind of packaging contains peculiar goods: if you make mistakes in the packaging of a medicine, this can have very serious consequences for the pharmaceutical company whose aim is to guarantee the quality of the medicine, but also the method for manufacturing the package. This system obliges the company to concentrate not only on productive principles and factors, but also on productive processes.

How has Igb changed?

Since the connection with the pharmaceutical industry became stronger, we started paying more attention to some details. We began using new technologies and training our staff to use them correctly.

That is why, starting from the end of the ‘90s, there has been a strong engagement towards production processes, equipments and people: three factors intended to give companies the adequate answers they are waiting for.

In our plant – which was restored in 2000 and lately enlarged – equipments are very recent and everything is conceived to respect the typical production flows in pharmaceutical firms. This is obviously very appreciated by our customers and this is confirmed by the fact that they keep on being loyal to us.

More generally, what has changed in this sector in the last 15 years?

The main change concerns a greater attention to technology for safety. In these last years, pharmaceutical companies have made new requests: they expect from their suppliers that quality controls are managed not only through human capacities, but also through technology, as it makes controls more secure and precise. These new requests have also transformed the customer-supplier relation into a sort of partnership, which can function only on a mutual satisfaction basis. Notwithstanding the economic crises, Igb has been so successful in this new direction that its sales volume has even increased.

Let’s talk about innovation: which is the role of a firm like Igb in promoting innovation and new solutions for pharmaceutical packaging?

It depends. Usually, a pharmaceutical company asks us to develop a specific folding box corresponding to a special packaging need. In this case, we try to contact the firm which built the packaging equipment. In some circumstances, we have to choose the material according to its physical and mechanical characteristics, in others according to its aesthetical features.

Our activity mainly consists in giving advice concerning the choice of materials, special layouts, or sampling for a new equipment trial, as it often happens. We are actually trying to promote joint process innovations among some customers. We have now machineries that can guarantee the control of 100% of printed material: we can check colours, texts, even Braille notices, thus offering our customers the opportunity to reduce controls when they receive the material. In this case our productive innovation technology has a real effect, as it can impact our customers’ quality control through process innovations. These are very complex mechanisms to propose, to test, as well as to maintain and stabilize. However, we have started this way with a couple of customers and we are experiencing mutual satisfaction, as we were able to guarantee a certain quality, and our customer could reduce the purchase cost of materials.

Moreover the price of a single folding box depends on many elements….

That’s right, the price of a pharmaceutical folding box cannot be evaluated as the simple purchase of the box, as this would be an incomplete approach. On the contrary, other elements must be also taken into account, like the performance of the machine – as it could be reduced if the folding box is not made correctly – the cost of machine downtime – when the box does not arrive at the right moment – as well as the cost of the management of folding box quality.

Igb, in addition to its attempt to offer products that can be competitive from the point of view of material, also tries to work on the approach to the client, so that the quality service, together with the material supplied, diminishes all those costs the pharmaceutical firm should bear or, at least, should evaluate attentively.

How was your new “tamper evident” folding box created?

It was created to comply with the Directive 2011/62/EU, that was recently adopted by the Italian system in the Decreto Legislativo of 19th February 2014. This DL imposes to the pharmaceutical industry the adoption of a “device that could verify if the external packaging has been tampered”.

This idea was conceived by my brother Michel Bressan, an engineer, who developed it together with the other technicians of our firm. This is a valid alternative to all other solutions that are possible in theory, but very expensive both from an economic and productive point of view.

There are several methods to make sure the medicine external packaging has not been tampered: for instance, it is possible to apply a film or label (certified as “original”) on the packaging, or some hot glue (although this solution is not accepted by Food and Drug Administration – Fda).

All these solutions request huge investments both in the production plants and in packaging materials. Moreover they are expensive because of the slowing down of productive lines, as well as of tracing materials procedures: costs that should be add to the price of the package.

How does your system work instead?

First of all, it does not affect the production lines already in place. The folding box, that is very difficult to tamper, consists of three elements: a hook, a support and a seal clasped to the support; when the product is being packed, the hook enters between the seal and the support. When the package is opened for the first time, the hook inevitably tears the seal off from its support.

The seal is thus removed from the box, clearly showing that it has been opened.

This breach can be highlighted with any colour. For instance, in the sample boxes we present at fairs, white colour shows that the package is closed, while red colour highlights it has been opened.

This system is valid also for blind people, as we have patented a sort of mechanic Braille: once the seal has been torn off, a blind person can recognize the element just by touching.

How was this new system accepted by companies?

Very well, some of them have even made themselves available for testing the product. We presented our “tamper evident” folding box at national and international exhibitions, like in Paris, where we have recently won an award for innovation.

By which means of communication do companies promote the new folding box?

First of all by the package leaflet, but also through the QR code referring to those websites that explain the functioning of the seal. One of our customers, for instance, wanted to develop a system for blind people and he put on his site audio information, so to reach them too.

In any case, an information campaign is fundamental, as for all innovative products.

Our “tamper evident” folding box represents a true innovation in this sector, as the patent application was registered in June 2014, the first trials were carried out in July and in that same period we started testing its implementation in some firms.

In September we introduced the system in all the packaging equipments on the market. Some customers adopted the system so to be sure to comply with the new Directive once it will be applied, but others adopted it just because of the innovation, independently from legal obligation.

Igb dates and numbers

In 1968 Dino Bressan founded “Grafica Viggiù” which became Igb – Industrie Grafiche Bressan (change of name) in the ’80s. Starting from the ‘90s Igb has focused on the pharmaceutical and cosmetic packaging sector. Nowadays this firm generates the 50% of its turnover in Switzerland, 45% in Italy, and the rest in other countries, also non-European nations. 80% of their products are related to the pharmaceutical sector, 15% to the cosmetic one, 5% consists of special packaging.

Their plant (on a 15 thousands square meters area) lies in Viggiù, in the Province of Varese. They employ 40 people who all contributed to realize a double-digit increase in the company turnover in these last years, and 08% increase in the last two years.

A certified company

Igb is inspired by the WCM (World Class Manufacturing) principles, has an ISO 9001:2008 certification and works according to GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) values. In 2012 it received the FSC Chain-of-Custody certification, which means they produce paper products coming from FSC certified forests. In these forests the respect of special production methods for wood, as well as for workers, is guaranteed. In 2014 it received the OHSAS 18001 certification for Safety and Security of Workers , and the environmental ISO 14001 certification.