Austrian packaging firm Alpla Werke Alwin Lehner GmbH & Co KG has expanded its operations in Puerto Rico through a recent strategic alliance with local manufacturer Fortiflex Inc., which builds on a cooperation that began in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
Based in the northern section of Puerto Rico, in Dorado, Fortiflex manufacturers injection molded containers for food, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and paints. Alpla’s Puerto Rican operations are based in Guayama, on the southern coast.
When Hurricane Maria hit in 2017, most of the island was badly damaged.
“We helped our employees with the full support of the Alpla management by paying their wages in cash and, in the initial phase, also handing out food, water and toiletries,” Alpla Regional Manager Ricardo Lisch wrote in a blog post for the company. “We additionally provided building materials, electrical appliances and furniture to allow our employees to rebuild their homes.”
With assistance from Alpla’s global operations, including a sister operation in the Dominican Republic, Alpla was able to restore power and resume production quickly, Lisch wrote.
“Local businesses often don’t have this option. Fortiflex ... was unable to establish a reliable power supply for its production plant in Dorado, so Jose Felix Ballester, managing director, turned to us,” Lisch said.
Alpla took over some production so Fortiflex could meet its customer obligations. By 2018, that cooperation expanded to a 10-year agreement that saw Fortiflex transfer 12 injection molding presses to Alpla.
“But a partnership … developed between us, and we then made it official with our strategic alliance,” he added. “An emergency situation resulted in collaboration that offers advantages to both parties.”
The move has created around 30 new jobs at the Alpla’s Guyama site. The agreement has also seen Alpla bring in new packaging decoration that has been a Fortiflex specialty. Fortiflex employees helped set up that production at Alpla, which is now using offset printing, heat transfer and in-mold labeling.
The partners did not disclose any further details.
Set up in 1976, Fortiflex is a leading manufacturer in the Caribbean and in Central America region.
The company’s product portfolio includes waterers, troughs and crates for the agricultural sector and thin-walled containers for decorating.