SAN LUIS POTOS¸, MEXICO - Fast-expanding compounder A. Schulman Inc. plans to triple capacity at its new 20 million-pound plant in Mexico by 1997 and later could raise it to 100 million pounds to meet growing Latin American demand. Schulman President Terry Haines revealed the plans Sept. 30 at the inauguration of the Akron, Ohio, firm's US$15 million compounding plant in San Luis Potos¡.
Schulman, which will serve primarily the buoyant automo-tive and packaging sectors in recession-hit Mexico, is not ruling out building another plant in South America if the region's market develops sufficiently, Haines said.
The automotive market represents about 40 percent of Schulman's Mexican business while packaging represents 25 percent. Much of the rest of sales are to the appliance and consumer product sectors.
The A. Schulman de Mexico SA de CV plant is Schulman's 11th worldwide and its first in Latin America. It has five U.S. production units, four in Europe and one in Canada, and plans to open its first Asian plant next year in Surabaya, Indonesia.
``We would hope that this first line [at San Luis Potos¡] will almost be filled immediately,'' Haines said. ``We have plans for another line within six months.
``Then, one and a half years down the road we will have a third line taking us to 60 million pounds.''
The extra lines will cost another $8 million to $10 million. The firm has about 100 client firms in Mexico and is doing business worth almost US$18 million there, with a further US$8 million worth in Central and South America.
Despite Mexico's current economic crisis, Schulman is bullish about future market prospects.
``We view Mexico as one of the fastest-growing markets in the world,'' Haines said at the official opening ceremony he conducted jointly with San Luis Potos¡ state Gov. Horacio S nchez.
Haines said business was more difficult in the face of the Mexican peso crisis. But, as local firms fight to survive, Schulman has gained from those customers succeeding as exporters.
The plant's first two lines will concentrate on production of a range of masterbatches and compounds, based on resins including polypropylene, polyethylene, polystyrene, ABS and thermoplastic elastomers.
Schulman's Mexican plant is near its domestic markets in industrial centers of Monterrey, Mexico City and Guadalajara as well as the Gulf of Mexico ports of Tampico and Altamira. It employs 50.
The San Luis Potos¡ plant, which started in late August, is being supplied with raw materials by Mexican firms, including the state-run oil and petrochemicals monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos. Schulman aims to source as much of its raw material requirements locally as possible.