Mexico City — Rocheleau Tool & Die Co. Inc. is seeing steady growth for business in Mexico despite uncertainties across the North American region.
The family-owned maker of extrusion blow molding machinery, blow molds and other related automation equipment has been selling its machinery in Mexico since the 1970s and attending Plastimagen since the 1990s.
Today, as much as 25 percent of the 81-year-old company's business is generated in Mexico, primarily serving the packaging industry with a special focus on both food and personal care packaging markets.
"It's a significant part of our business," President Steven Rocheleau said April 1 during an interview at Plastimagen in Mexico City, where the company is exhibiting at Booth 706.
Asked whether he's experienced any direct impact on business in the Mexican market from the ongoing uncertainties with trade, Rocheleau said "the political rhetoric doesn't help."
"It doesn't help anybody really, but I guess it's the reality," he said. "We don't create it, but we have to live with it."
While the United States Mexico Canada (USMCA) proposed replacement for Nafta's wait-and-see status isn't having any direct impact on Rocheleau's business, the Trump administration's Section 232 investigation, imposing a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports in the United States, certainly is, he said.
"It's hitting our business because our material costs have definitely gone up," Rocheleau said.
Prices for the company's machinery have increased 3-4 percent because of the higher cost of raw steel as well as steel components such as hydraulic pumps.
"From the side of the business we're on, it seems like people have just learned that this is the new normal," he said.
More uncertainty came just days before Plastimagen, too, as President Donald Trump threatened March 29 to shut down all or a portion of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Rocheleau said that while there is frustration among people in the industry, everyone is learning to work around the instability. Customers aren't happy about it, he said, but "it's not enough to stop a project from happening."
"At the end of the day, we're selling business to business, and I don't get the feeling that our customers hold us accountable for any of that," he said.
Rocheleau Tool & Die, based in Fitchburg, Mass., has sales representation in Guadalajara, Monterrey and Chihuahua.
At Plastimagen, the company is introducing a new machine to the Mexican market: the RS-90, its largest reciprocating screw machine for producing blow molded containers for the dairy, industrial and consumer markets. The machine made its global debut at NPE2018 in Orlando, Fla.
"It's a bigger size machine for us, and it really goes after the larger scale, high-volume packagers," Rocheleau said, citing high-end, high-volume companies such as Procter & Gamble Co.
The company hasn't sold the machine to any customers in Mexico yet, but will use Plastimagen as an opportunity to educate booth visitors on the larger size option.
In addition to its reciprocating screw systems, Rocheleau Tool & Die also supplies custom blow molding systems for continuous extrusion that are compatible with PET, polypropylene, PVC and other engineering-grade resins.