Inventor through and through, Jean-Jacques (JJ) Graffin, founder of Serac, has devoted his life to improving manufacturing and packaging for the food industry. His passion for invention and his interest in food and drink were ingrained in his upbringing.
“Observing his parents running their small general mechanical farm equipment business was how the idea of being an entrepreneur took shape,” says Rose Graffin, JJ’s beloved wife and partner at Serac. He studied at Arts et Métiers, an engineering school in Angers, France, and in 1955 earned a Master of Engineering MEng ENSAM (École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers).
The idea of Graffin’s first revolutionary invention coincided with the arrival of the plastic bottle on the French dairy market. As Managing Director of Nova-Socimec, a French manufacturer of dosing pumps for filling milk bottles since 1966, he began to develop a semi-automatic dairy filler. It occurred to him that instead of dosing liquids by measuring their volume, he could measure the weight of the liquid, so he invented the Net Weight Filler machine.
The invention of the first weight loader in the food industry led Graffin to leave Nova-Socimec and start his own company, Serac, in June 1969. Rose explained that while her husband’s passion was invention, he also became a true entrepreneur. “The sales of these machines were increasing and JJ surrounded himself with competent teams driven by the same passion for the development of packaging,” she explains. “He sold six machines in six months.”
Other notable inventions include:
- The first rotary machine for filling milk into bottles in 1972.
- The first aseptic filling line for filling milk into plastic bottles was made in partnership with another manufacturer in 1977.
- The creation and development of electronic weight fillers in 1978.
- The launch of the PET bottle blowing activity in 2012 with Serac Blow Molder (SBL) plastic bottles, produced in-house for production rates not exceeding 18,000 containers per hour.
- The patented design electromagnetic nozzle with a closing ball – the load has no rubber seal, only a tank with nozzles on the periphery with a stainless steel valve. A magnetic field actuates the seat and the ball.
As an innovator, Graffin made a point of solving problems presented to him, finding solutions and bringing them to life, obtaining more than 100 patents. Rose explained that her husband took the time to dive deep into bold ideas generated by customer demand, spending long hours on problems, even though, she says, “he never saw a problem; he took on challenges to create solutions.
It would upgrade the machines already in use to improve the customer experience. He wanted his business to be open, in line with customer demands. He continually personally tested each innovation until it achieved the desired result.
When asked what JJ’s packaging accomplishments he was most proud of, Rose cited his very first, the Net Weight Filler, as it expanded into other markets including detergents. , household cleaning products, agrochemicals, lubricants and others.
With three factories in France, the option of creating production units abroad began to prevail and Graffin was advised to go to the United States. The American subsidiary Serac was established in 1981, a Brazilian subsidiary in 1985 and Serac Asia in Malaysia in 1994. With a Mexican subsidiary opened later in the year, Serac has 14 subsidiaries and more than 650 employees worldwide, including Nova -Socimec, purchased in 2004.
Throughout his life and career, Graffin has received numerous awards:
- Nobel Prize for Entrepreneurship by the French Academy, 1979
- Received the title of “Chevalier in the National Order of Merit” for his distinguished civil achievements in honor of the complementarity of the French citizen with the Legion of Honor, May 1980
- Winner of the La Prix “Nessim Habif”, one of the annual prizes awarded by the Société des Arts et Métiers, May 2009
Serac has also been a leader in the closed club of manufacturers of aseptic fillers since 1978.
Prior to his passing, Graffin was working on a very important project focused on sustainability. In 2020, he oversaw the operation of Serac’s BluStream® module, a chemical-free decontamination module for corks making its debut at Drinktec in Munich this month. Rose says Graffin has continually pushed innovation towards sustainability, especially the circular economy.
|View JJ Graffin’s obituary and learn more about his contributions to automation, packaging, sustainability, and more.|
“He believed that in the future, many resources that we now take for granted would be acquired at a high price, so Serac must prepare for that eventuality and lead the way,” Rose says. She further explained that he wanted his legacy to be a continuation of his work. “My husband was a very proud man; he was kind, caring, and considered everyone an equal partner in all of his endeavors. He always believed in himself and in his ideas, as far-fetched as they may have seemed at the time. For this, and all he built, JJ Graffin leaves a legacy that will live and grow forever.
JJ and Rose Graffin were married for 25 years and raised three children. Rose served 22 years on the company’s board, many of them as JJ’s vice chairman. They were partners in life and in business. “I can’t talk about JJ without smiling,” Rose says.
Read the profiles of the other three inductees into the Packaging and Processing Hall of Fame, Class of 2020 by clicking on their names below: