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Personal story. How I went into tobacco

It happened. As simple as that: life lead me to facilitate a tobacco machinery sale. What really matters is why I stayed. It made me tick. Let me explain.

I have a degree in pharmaceutical engineering. And a consuming passion for physical chemistry, flow and balance sheets (but that is a story for some other time). None of these pointed to tobacco, but they certainly came in handy.

What anchored me into it was the people I hired, grew attached to and felt responsible for. Their ingenuity. And the most fabulous generation of machines, drawn in pencil and exuding love for what comes into them, the operator, the materials, the output, the whole process. I fell for that.

When I started out, I did not really know which is which, some look quite alike. I first told them apart through their purpose: primary lines and the rest. And then I did what we all do when we want to learn: I read, I asked, I looked at pictures. There is not that much knowledge on it laying around, there is no public, real history of tobacco. So many of the old technological solutions have been wiped out in the race to hi-tech.

In tobacco, we labour minutely on heavy machinery with very fragile materials to end up with an intact product. And all that requires, above all, preparation, precision, patience, predictability.

Tobacco, in fact, is both tactile and technical. That is where the art begins: you will be called to balance taste (and all related to it) and hardware.

After so many years in tobacco, the nuts and bolts of this industry became the nuts and bolts of my life. We have grown into an osmotic relationship. And I must say: this art, this constant quest for balance and blend must be what makes me go on. You have to show strength, honesty and determination in order to succeed. And have your wits about you.

A few things come to mind when starting a business in the tobacco industry. One is not to be driven by numbers. You may amortise everything in one year and have a villa on the Riviera in three. But, actually, the stakes will be elsewhere. There will be a lot to learn. To discover by yourself. It may sound and feel overwhelming, as all things worth your time, energy and passion are, but I assure you it can be done the simple way.

And you will come to realise it yourself, after the I-am-so-stuck feeling goes away. This is an Eureka business! It’s all about building a flow of simple processes leading to a good product. Product is key: a good, quality product, pleasant to experience.

Another is that as long as your focal point is your customer, the numbers and the machines will follow. One lead at the time, one step after the other. Taking the first one is what gets you started. We are here to support you.

I made a pledge to support the success of my clients through thick and thin. I built a family around New Wave Inc. and we are proud of what we have accomplished. If I were to say what mattered most through all these years, I would boil it down to guts and the will to run long distances. Everything else can be learned.


The rise of the perfect machine. A makeover story

One of the key startup decisions for any tobacco business will be about the choice of machinery. Which one is right for you? And how much should you invest?

“Molins HLP cigarette packer is the star, I would go as far as to say it is the best for niche production,” says New Wave Inc. founder and CEO Carmen Simion. “The productivity is not skyrocketing, but this machine breathes English soundness, it is built to live forever. The bati has not been changed since its inception in 1966.” She then goes on to explain that bati is to machinery what chassis is to cars, their fundamental structure. Speed increased about threefold, improvements were made, but the “bones” are still the same.

The latest she has restored came to the workshop with a client New Wave Inc. serviced last year. The beauty of it is you can bring it to functioning mode irrespective of their condition. And this one was in a state. New Wave Inc. always does the best possible with the means at hand to have the machine up and running and endure.

Any machine can be restored to “as good as new.” The stage of restoration is agreed on with the client, according to the time and money budget. Initially the client asked for less, but during the process they realised it had to be reinstated to full technological parameters and standards. When complete, the machine complied with all EU regulations and safety rules. “It was a thing of beauty.”

How is that possible for this piece of work to endure a lifetime and be passed on to the next generation? “The same way Edison’s original bulb is still alight. It was built to last,” says Carmen Simion. The latest generation machines are high quality, but also sensitive and expensive. When the investment is north of 1 million US, we are no longer in niche waters.

Every tobacco owner will make the choice that is right for their project. At New Wave Inc., we ask the questions that get them to their match. Questions like “How much would you like to invest? How much can you lose? And how much would you be in a position to sell?” for instance. “This is an industry of taste and personal attachment. Going for the optimum risk zone is best,” explains Carmen Simion.

The recommendation will always be to choose the machine for the sales target attainable in a given time, rather than invest in large production capacities waiting for the market to catch up.

As things progress, capacity can double or the existing equipment can be replaced with a more competitive one. The discharged equipment will find its way to the market.

Is there a recommended point to stop with the restoration? The basic investment will render the machine functioning, but will also cary a larger operational and maintenance risk. “A good product and a good story will sometimes bridge the gap. But I will always advise for the larger investment in restoration at the beginning, whenever possible. For two reasons. One: sales never go as expected, but if the money is in, you will grit your teeth and pull through. I have seen this happen so many times. Two: the operation will be easier to manage for both owner and staff. A machine will package 200 packs per minute. Pushing a button will not fix a maintenance issue. I always say it straight: it’s terribly beautiful, but not easy. Easier maintenance is priceless.”