Alcoa Closure Systems International Inc. has boosted its worldwide presence in the beverage closures market by opening plants in China, Hungary and Peru. ACSI, the Indianapolis-based closure arm of Pittsburgh-based Aluminum Co. of America, opened the facilities during the past several months, but made no public announcements about the moves until queried about them recently.
On June 16, ACSI opened a joint venture closure plant in Tianjin, China. In a partnership with China National Timber Corp., under the name Asian-American Packaging Systems Co. Ltd., Alcoa will provide polypropylene caps and closures for customers in China, Korea and Hong Kong from the Tianjin plant, according to Jack Yaggy, ACSI communications manager.
In mid-May, Alcoa Closure opened a new facility in Szekesfehervar, Hungary, where it also will make polypropylene closures in individual molds using Alcoa's patented rotary compression molding process.
The plant will serve container customers in Eastern Europe, in-cluding Hungary, Poland, theCzech Republic, the Slovakian Republic and Russia.
Earlier this year, the company opened a similar plant in Lima, Peru, bringing to four the number of closure plants it operates in South America.
``Each of these plants is about the same size,'' Yaggy said. ``Each will employ about 100 people, and have capacity to produce about 50 million closures per month.''
Yaggy said the plants all opened less than a year after initial planning, and the expedited expansion schedule was part of a company strategy to keep pace with its main customers.
``It has to do with the worldwide growth of the beverage industry, which is our major customer,'' he said.
``As [beverage companies] grow in the world markets, we want to be able to supply them locally.''
Yaggy declined to reveal a total investment figure for the expansions, and said the company deliberately had not publicized the expansion moves widely for competitive reasons.
ACSI is one of beverage industry's largest suppliers of sealing systems, including plastic and metal closures, capping equipment and quick-changeover, bottle-motion-control parts.
The company also makes closures for the food, liquor, pharmaceutical, motor oil, and other household products markets.
It supplies PET bottles in some segments.
Mel Druin, managing director of Polyplas Development, a Newark, N.J.-based plastics development consultancy, said the moves reflect an obvious attempt by Alcoa to keep pace with the growth of PET use in the beverage industry worldwide.
``The rest of the world has lagged a bit behind the growth in the U.S., but is catching up quickly,'' Druin said.
``It is strange that the company would not make a big announcement about three plants like this, but it may be understandable, given the growth and competition.''
He said he did not feel theAlcoa openings were a major shift by the company away from its metal-oriented businesses, but rather an attempt to enhance its presence in the plastics field.
The company has closure plants in Indianapolis, Crawfordsville and Richmond, Ind.; Olive Branch, Miss.; Saltillo, Mexico; SÃo Paulo, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; Bogot , Colombia; Tellig, Worms and Vierheim, Germany; Villafranca, Spain; Ichikawa and Nogi, Japan; and Al Manamah, Bahrain.