MONTERREY, MEXICO - A leading Mexican manufacturer of household cleaning products that produces much of its packaging in-house is switching increasingly to PET bottles from PVC. Industrias Alen SA de CV of Monterrey, with plants across the country, is convinced that PET is helping it stay ahead in what is a depressed and supercompetitive domestic consumer goods market.
With powerful multinational competitors such as Procter & Gamble Co. and Colgate Palm-olive, Alen also employs Japanese technology with Aoki and Nissei molding equipment in the fight for market share.
At its three major manufacturing plants in Monterrey, Guada-lajara and Puebla, Alen operates a total of 13 Aoki stretch blow molding machines and 15 Nissei injection presses.
Alen has eight Aoki SB-III-500LL-75 bottle machines, three SB-III-250LL-50 narrow-necked bottle models and two SB-III-100H-15 single-cavity, small-size container models.
The firm, founded by brothers Alfonso and Enrique Garcia in 1949, took delivery of its first three Nissei machines when the Japanese supplier was building equipment in Monterrey through the Mexican company Fama in the 1960s.
Alen bought its first machines from Aoki Technical Laboratory Inc. four years ago, under the second-generation management of cousins, Chief Executive Alfonso Garcia Hernandez, and Edmundo Cantu Garcia, operations director, according to Cantu.
``I like PET and Aoki. ... We've dealt with other blow molding machinery companies and you don't see the owner coming to a factory asking after his machinery. [President] Shigeto Aoki comes at least once a year,'' Cantu said.
European suppliers, he said, simply do not care too much for the Mexican market, while U.S. equipment firms only sat up and began to take notice of Mexico in the past few years.
Alen - the name is derived from the first names of its founders - began life ``as an adventure'' when the Garcia brothers set out in a small kitchen with the big goal of distributing a good-quality household bleach, Alfonso Garcia Hernandez said. They started with glass containers, but by the mid-1960s began to produce polyethylene bottles on several Da-nish Blowmatic molding ma-chines brought back from Europe.
Gradually, Alen's product range increased, as did its geographical spread. Fanning out across the nation, the firm established its second plant in Puebla in 1985 and a third in Guadalajara three years later.
It added floor cleaners, water softeners for clothes and insecticides to its product portfolio, and packaged its various products in PVC bottles.
The Monterrey company, which now produces toiletries, shampoos and bottled soft drinks, has begun exporting some of its bleach and household cleaning products to the southern border states of the United States.
Alen reported 1994 sales of about US$150 million.
With Alen introducing three to four new products, the family managers predict that even more will be appearing in PET in the future.