Tetra Pak Plastics Mexico SA de CV is ramping up production of Novembal-brand plastic closures.
In a couple years, the Mexicali, Mexico, operation aims to employ about 120 and, depending on product mix and market requirements, make about 3 billion closures per year.
The newly built 109,000-square-foot facility is designed to accommodate about 30 injection molding machines.
The plant now runs five presses, is preparing two more machines and anticipates receiving an additional five by the end of December. Clamping forces range from 132-385 tons.
The operation includes a laboratory, quality-control devices and automated equipment to assemble sports-drink closures from three separately molded pieces.
Plant Manager Omar Girbau has a staff of 35. One technical machine specialist relocated from France; other employees were hired locally.
Construction began in June 2000, the tenant took possession in November and production started in March. Tetra Pak anticipates investing up to $30 million in equipment and special infrastructure improvements over three years.
Holding company Tetra Laval SA of Lausanne, Switzerland, acquired Novembal SA of Les Cheres, France, in August 1999 and operates the business as a semi-autonomous closures company within Tetra Pak Group's plastics business area. Tetra Pak employs 18,000 primarily making liquid food processing and packaging systems.
``Tetra Pak has a large and fast-growing demand for closures,'' Herve Lenoir said in remarks prepared for a June 12 ceremony at the Mexicali factory. Lenoir is managing director of both Novembal and Tetra Pak Closures in Las Cheres.
Mexicali becomes the eighth plant making Novembal products. Novembal specializes in caps and closures for noncarbonated beverages with other products for carbonated drinks, food items and nonfood markets such as pharmaceuticals and cleaning supplies.
Novembal's North American closure manufacturing began in Edison, N.J., in 1998 to serve expanding French bottled water companies, but production quickly outstripped the land-locked site's capacity.
West Coast growth of the spring water providers prompted Tetra Pak to invest in Mexicali, Andrew Stone said in a telephone interview. Stone is business development manager of Novembal.
``Our first priority in international [markets] was an American business base,'' Stone said. ``Mexicali has addressed that.'' Mexico trade agreements provide entry to Latin American markets.
By the end of the year, Tetra Pak intends to begin manufacturing Tage-brand expanded-resin synthetic wine corks in Mexicali. ``We make quite a quantity in France,'' Stone said.
Tetra Pak's long-term lease with the Calafia Industrial Park includes an option to facilitate future expansion on adjacent land. ``We believe we would be in a position to make that call in approximately three years,'' Stone said.
Other Novembal manufacturing occurs at two plants each in France and Spain and single locations in Italy and Japan.