Horacio Lobo is back.
The man who turned a small Mexico City rotational molder, Grupo Rotoplas, into an international player in the 1990s has formed a new company in the Mexican capital called Negocios Especializados SA de CV.
Supported by Mexico's National Council of Science and Technology, or Conacyt, he has developed a rotomolding machine that, thanks to ultra-efficient insulation, has temperature variations of less than 45° F. The oven recycles homogenous hot air that is sucked around the system.
``We have developed new areas [in the rotomolding process] that give you better performance. The temperature inside the oven is one of the big improvements because it is constant,'' Lobo said.
Some rotomolding machines have temperature variations of 176° F, he said.
Founded in 1978, Rotoplas today has 1,500 employees in 13 manufacturing complexes, eight of which are in Mexico and the others in Guatemala, Ecuador, Argentina, Peru and Brazil.
Lobo resigned from the privately owned company, in which he owned a minority share, in 2000 to spend more time with his family. He says he now regrets the decision.
``But I was traveling two or three days per week, visiting the seven plants we had in Mexico at the time. I wasn't seeing my children and I was 50 years old,'' he said. He is now 58.
The family took off for Europe to go backpacking and lived in Paris for seven months.
``It was great because I had the chance to clear my head,'' he said.
He had sold his Rotoplas shares and signed an agreement not to compete with the company for three years. ``In 2005 I got an invitation from Conacyt, inviting me to develop companies for Mexico. Rotomolding, of course, was the field I knew. They were looking for executives with [business] experience,'' Lobo said.
Two machines that were developed and built at a Conacyt-recognized research and development center called Ciateq AC in Querétaro, Mexico, have already been sold to customers in Mexico, one in Querétaro and the other in Merida, in southeastern Mexico.
Marketed under the Moviplas brand, the machines, both 9.8 feet in diameter, cost $199,000 each.
Rotoplas started small, molding 10 water tanks in 1990. Within four years, the company claimed 95 percent of the Mexican market of about 65,000 water tanks per month.
Lobo calculates that Rotoplas, which he joined as managing director in the late 1980s, now has 60 competitors in Mexico, producing about 100,000 water tanks per month and consuming 132 million pounds of resin per year.
``Seventy-five percent of the rotomolding in Mexico is water tanks,'' he said. Toys account for 4 percent, agriculture 6 percent, industrial products 8 percent, signage 2 percent and furniture 1 percent, he said. All other applications account for the remaining 4 percent.
``The consumption of resins in Mexico should be twice what it is. We [Mexico] buy [44 million to 66 million pounds] of finished plastic products from abroad every year, mainly from the U.S. All of that could be made here in the country.''
A former president of Mexico's National Association of Plastics Industries, or Anipac, he believes the opportunity for rotomolding products such as toys, kennels, chairs and trolleys in Mexico is immense.
He is a graduate in industrial engineering from Mexico's National Autonomous University and is advising his alma mater on how to establish a master's degree course in plastics engineering.
``Plastics have given me a lot in life,'' he said. ``I want to give something back. I'm working to grow the industry.''
He plans to move into his own manufacturing premises in about a year, once sales of his machines have taken off, and may resurrect his plastic igloo housing project, for which he won a prize in 1986 from the Association of Rotomolders International, based in Glen Ellyn, Ill.
Lobo said he may even continue to support Mexican architect Juan José Díaz Infante, who has advocated the creation of cosmic hotels made of plastic.