Seals for Security and QualityWed, 09/09/2015 - 13:33
Q: Where did your interest in holograms start and how was Holomex founded?
A: My father founded Holomex. At MIT, he studied under Emmett Norman Leith, the inventor of the hologram, who did not invent the hologram for security purposes, but for an artistic end. Moreover, the holograms were only visible when put under a laser. So my father, along with a professor at MIT, realized the potential of the holograms and he developed the concept we use today. He then came to Mexico and founded a small hologram company and started to manufacture small items, such as holographic key chains. From these artistic trinkets he learned enough about holograms to found this company. Thirty years later, my father is well known to everyone in the hologram industry. Due to his work, and his association with one of the forefathers of holograms, he is a recognized pioneer of the industry.
Q: What place do holograms have in the pharmaceutical industry today?
A: In the pharmaceutical industry, or in any industry, a hologram is the only thing that cannot be falsified, meaning that sensitive information can be stored in the image. Since not many companies produce holograms, the same hologram cannot be copied from another client. The physical appearance of the hologram is made up of nanostructures, which are in turn made based on optical and chemical components. Next, the hologram is plated, a four-week process that precedes printing onto the final material. Holograms are not made of ink, but of light diffraction, so without light the image will not appear.
Q: Are companies likely to adapt hologram technology on a wide scale as a form of data protection?
A: Hologram measures are in a phase of evolution. Hologram stickers provide a number of security measures. When opening a box containing medicine, for instance, the sticker is broken which can indicate tampering. The idea here is to be able to keep a record of who opened the box, since the sticker cannot be resealed and used on another container. The hologram, then, makes it clear to the buyer whether or not the package has been opened previously, which means they can trust a product when its sticker is intact.
Q: Who are your major clients in the industry and how has working for them molded your service approach?
A: We cater to almost all of the major players in the pharmaceutical industry, such as Pisa, Bio Zoo, Medifarma, Wyeth, and Liomont. Beyond this sector we also work with Visa. Beyond providing us with a large client base, the pharmaceutical industry has helped us to improve our procedures. Pharmaceutical companies have given us the opportunity to grow. When you are working with pharmaceutical companies, they have their own requirements. Our ISO certification wins us trust and this ISO is much stricter than many other quality control measures. Pharmaceutical organizations are quite extensive in giving feedback, checking for any irregularities, and so what we learn from this improves the company. Thanks to these companies, we have grown and improved processes in ways that might not otherwise have occurred to us. They also share their ideas, as we share ours with them.
Q: What role does security play in the production of such highly sensitive packaging accessories? A: We place very strict measures in place for security reasons. We cannot just give away the metal used for the hologram even if a client requests it. We have a vault where we keep all the holographic plates belonging to clients. After it is closed, it can only be accessed with a unique password. It is hermetically sealed and keeps the plates at the optimum temperature so that they do not get damaged.
Q: Do your clients specify the parameters of the holograms or is it something you design in-house?
A: Design is largely a joint effort. Sometimes clients approach us with a clear idea of what they want. On other occasions, our design team makes them a personalized hologram. We advise them on what we think may be the best option. We are not just a company that sells holograms but also a company that sells solutions. Sometimes clients arrive with branding or copyright problems, so we help to design a really aesthetically pleasing logo which, at the same time, protects their data. We have worked with many industries beyond the pharmaceuticals sector. The function of the logo is two-fold. It protects from copyright and contributes to the company branding, and it also provides a measure of security for the client. Secondly, the hologram helps with brand recognition, since in Latin America, people recognize the hologram as a marker for a quality product that carries a certain prestige. The hologram, then, boosts sales. Quality pharmaceutical companies come to us because the hologram increases their sales.
Q: Has there been a lot of growth in Holomex’s number of clients and sales?
A: We have seen growth and the numbers are continuing to grow. Expansion is our next priority. We have already invested in new machines and we are beginning to produce heat-shrinkable PVC labels. Our products can be found on medicine bottles, and on cough syrup seals. Water barrels that already have the hologram now include our labels, as these barrels were being replaced with lower-quality materials made in Taiwan and China. We also hope to break into the food industry.
Q: What kind of relationship do you have with the client after the product has been completed?
A: We offer a lot of options to the client, so the relationship is a strong one. We assess all the issues to prevent copying of the hologram, and we keep the master. If they do not have a brand logo we can make a generic hologram for them. Sometimes they want to print something a little more personalized with the hologram, such as modeling them after driver license holograms, for instance. We try to personalize the hologram, but also to prevent copying. Our hologram has helped to create a quality pharmaceutical market, which has helped to weed out lower-grade products.
Q: What are the legal requirements for the production of holograms in Mexico?
A: In terms of products for human consumption, such as water and pharmaceuticals, there are a number of rules that need to be followed. Luckily, the stickers are placed on the exterior of the boxes and do not come into contact with the product, so there are not as many regulations relating to holograms. This is of benefit to us, since in this industry the competition is so fierce that companies must constantly strive for the next level. The fact that we do not need to focus so much on legal requirements gives us more time for design and innovation.
Q: Do you see a lot of competition coming from places like the US or Canada or do you think that the Latin American market prefers local companies like Holomex?
A: The Mexican and Latin American markets have strong trust in local companies. We have the added benefit of offering a higher quality product than many of our competitors, foreign or domestic, as a result of my father’s work. In addition, we have considerably lower prices. A big factor is that our competitor’s machines lack the capacity to carry out short runs. We work on a massive scale, printing labels in the thousands and the millions, and so more and more customers are coming to us. We started working with Bimbo in the US but when it comes to the choice between having a factory in the US and one in Mexico, we are always going to choose Mexico. So in the US we do have an office but all the production is carried out in Mexico.
Q: What are your priorities and how do they reflect on your desire to expand into other markets?
A: We have an open market in the US, Europe, and Africa where there are no problems with demand. Right now, business is constant, and we know that there is a market for holographics in Europe. It is a little more complicated to expand into Asia, since costs are low and there is a big problem with falsifying holograms. Moreover, in the European market people are more predisposed to buying quality products, and this will be one of the markets where the hologram works best. There are a lot of companies that try to break into the Asian market but it happens to have several barriers, and so their entry is partial.