Even after surviving a kidnapping and a mugging or two, retirement is not in the plans of 82-year-old Raúl Bribiesca Aldape.
I don't have a retirement date, he said in a recent interview. You become enslaved by the plastics industry. I eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's very tough but it fascinates me.
How tough? I have had longstanding clients who, for 5 cents, will take their business elsewhere. Others aren't like that.
But even tougher, and scarier, was his experience 10 years ago when a band of armed men intercepted him in his car as he was driving from his local bank to his home in Mexico City.
He was beaten and held until late at night while his assailants cleaned out his credit card account before abandoning him, naked.
There have been at least two other muggings since then, added Bribiesca, shrugging his shoulders and making light of the crimes committed against him, all of which have gone unpunished.
During the past 36 years Bribiesca, supported by his wife of 50 years, Rosa, has become an important supplier to the international cosmetics and personal- care industry in Mexico. Together they established Plasticos Inyectados y Soplados SA in Mexico City in 1973 then changed the company's name to Envases Cosméticos SA de CV in 1993.
Bribiesca is the firm's main contact man but Rosa is the chief administrator. Also involved in the business are the couple's daughter, María Fernanda, head of administration and public relations, and her husband, Eduardo Tapia, plant manager.
The family's hard work ethic has been passed on to the employees at the two plants it owns. Sixty work in the main facility in southern Mexico City and another 15 are employed in Celaya, 150 miles northwest of the capital, at a factory opened two years ago.
The company operates two 12-hour shifts five or six days a week, depending on the amount of work available.
People need to earn money, Bribiesca replied when asked about the 12-hour shifts. I implemented the system 25 years ago.
He explained that it was a deliberate strategy to keep people at work and earning money rather than leaving them too much free time in which to waste their wages.
Envases Cosméticos has between 25 and 30 clients, of which seven represent 80 percent of our production, Bribiesca said.
They include Avon Cosmetics S de RL de CV, House of Fuller SA de CV, Zermat Internacional SA de CV, Jafra Cosmetics Internacional SA de CV, Probelco SA de CV and Porta SA.
We are not a big company but we work with companies that demand quality, Bribiesca said. We have constant [quality] audits. Every one of the main companies we work with audits us twice a year.
Bribiesca, a founding member of Mexico's industry association Anipac (Asociacón Nacional de Industrias del Plastico AC), has been in the plastics sector for 50 years.
After managing two Mexican companies, first Plasticos Espumados SA and then Plastfin SA, he became independent.
I started with a little manual machine, he said. Today he has about dozen presses, including nine made by the Lien Yu Machinery Co. Ltd., of Taiwan, plus a blow molding machine. The presses' clamping forces range from 30-250 tons.
The company consumes 309,000 pounds of polypropylene, 66,000 pounds of polystyrene and 22,000 pounds of polyethylene resins per year, Bribiesca said. It also has an in-house toolmaking operation.
Bribiesca refuses to discuss the company's sales figures, but he admits that the global economic downturn has hit us hard. But in the 50 years I've been in plastics, the companies I've worked for and owned have never had to stop work.
This [Envases Cosméticos] is a healthy business that doesn't owe anything to anybody.
He would consider selling the injection and blow molding business he launched 36 years ago, if the right offer came along.
My idea is to take this business out of Mexico City, so as to be in the center of the republic, he said. He also mentioned problems in the Mexican capital, including expensive utility services and inadequate and unsafe public transportation.
It's not unusual in Mexico City for buses to be held up by gunmen and the passengers stripped of all their valuables.
All my Mexico City people live far away and it takes them two hours to get to work, whereas in Celaya they can walk to the factory, Bribiesca said.
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