Mexico's Poly Rafia SA de CV has added three film extrusion lines in less than a year, and plans to install at least two more high density polyethylene blown film lines by the end of 1998.
``We have invested over $20 million so far,'' said plant manager Francisco Murrillo.
The plant is in Atlacomulco, about 90 miles from Mexico City. Since 1980, the company has produced the polypropylene woven bags, which are used for sugar, animal feed and flour.
The company hopes to capitalize on the Mexican market for T-shirt grocery bags, pallet wrap, and shrink film.
``Mexico has many producers of the T-shirt bag, easily over 50, but only two or three of them have the newest technology,'' Murrillo said by telephone.
On the T-shirt bag front, the company replaced two older HDPE blown film lines in March. The new lines increased capacity slightly, but more importantly increased efficiency, he said.
The company is considering adding two more lines by the end of the year, Murrillo said.
Poly Rafia claims to be one of the first Latin American stretch film manufacturers, using a Battenfeld Gloucester cast film line. This is used mainly for wrapping industrial pallets. That line came into production in March 1997, and the company now produces from 13 million to 15 million pounds of stretch film annually.
``We see the potential as being up to [20 million pounds per year],'' he said, although he emphasized that the current level of sales grew very quickly.
Before, almost all stretch film available in Mexico was imported from the United States, and locally produced film was frequently substandard quality, he said.
Poly Rafia also added a Gloucester blown film system for shrink wrap production in October 1997. It complements the cast film line, he said.
``This line has the same clients that are part of the packaging or bottling industry. Although we have more competition here, sales are also going well,'' Murrillo said.
The owners of Poly Rafia financed the series of expansions by selling a purified-water bottling company last year, Murrillo said.
Poly Rafia is a privately owned firm with more than 400 employees. Sales are averaging about $4 million a month, he said.
The company's philosophy is that modernization makes it more competitive and helps it win a greater share of the market, even if the market itself does not grow.
Murrillo added that Poly Rafia has expanded capacity more than 700 percent in less than two years. The firm hasn't decided how much to invest in further expansion.
``We are waiting to see how the year develops,'' he said.
Battenfeld Gloucester of Gloucester, Mass., has sold more than 30 high-performance film lines in Mexico, the firm said.
For example, Mexico's second-largest bag maker, Leon-based Manufacturas de Bolsas de Alta Densidad SA de CV, replaced 15 blown film lines with a single Battenfeld system in 1997.