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Since its inception in the aluminum industry, Alcan, the Canadian-based multinational leader in primary aluminum, fabricated aluminum as well as flexible and specialty packaging, aerospace applications, bauxite mining and alumina processing, has become a market-driven company.
With 2005 revenues in the range of $20.3 billion, the company’s strength lies in its advanced technology and skilled employees, following its global vision to acquire and develop business wherever its clients need it. To increase global market participation, the company has expanded to four continents with regional operations and specific technologies.
“Alcan Packaging Mexico, reporting to the Chicago corporate headquarters, was born out of this global strategy followed by the company in the last 10 years,” said Jorge Murillo, engineer and commercial director.
In 2003, the global company & Koch Industries acquired Novacel, a subsidiary of Grupo Bimbo, a major player in Mexico’s food manufacturing industry, among others, and one of the main consumers of flexible packaging in Mexico. The joint venture primarily aimed to serve the needs of the food giant, but was finally sold to Alcan in August of 2003. “Alcan has been operating the company with 100 percent ownership for the last years,” said Murillo.
Mexico has contributed greatly to the company’s international operating business of flexible food packaging and high quality packaging solutions. Currently, the company employs 1,290 and operates five plants in Jalisco, Michoacán, and Nuevo León with sales offices in Mexico City.
THE PACKAGE THAT SELLS
Even though the company specializes in a large portfolio of packaging specialties, the Mexican plants specialize in food and beauty flexible packaging. Markets served by these plants are food, beverage, personal care and beauty, baby care, meat and dairy products.
“Alcan ranks as the number-one food flexible packaging company around the world, and Mexico plays a major role in that achievement,” said Murillo. Although the packaging group utilizes great diversity of materials to provide original solutions, plastics represents 60 percent of the group’s production. The Mexican subsidiary manufactures a wide range of packaging for dairy products, beverages, fresh and frozen foods, shrink bags for meats, dry food, retorted food and snacks. Beauty packaging products include collapsible tubes, plastic fragrance closures and shells, mascaras, lipsticks, compacts and promotional beauty items.
Primary packaging includes all material that is in direct contact with its contents, which requires strict compliance with Mexico’s regulations, as well as U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards. For that purpose, Alcan de Mexico is ISO: 9000-2000 certified, and also carries ISO: 14001 and ISO: 18001 certifications. In compliance with good business practices and processes, the company follows the American Institute of Baking guidelines. It also complies with requirements for a “clean industry,” which is enforced by the Mexican government. “All effluents of our operations are treated, in liquid or gas form, for either reuse, like in the case of the water treatment plants, or for total combustion,” said Murillo.
Research and development activities ensure the company’s leading role in innovative and complementary technologies, not only in the ability to offer protection and conservation of the packaged product but also a cutting edge technology in barrier technologies, surface treatment and printing techniques, which have become the selling point and critical success factors in a customer-driven market.
In developing its sustainability strategy, Alcan Packaging has engaged customers, suppliers, retailers, consumers, and recyclers in their input about using ecologically sound materials, reducing container weights, and reducing secondary packaging with great success.
“In Mexico, we serve two types of companies, the ones we classify as local, usually family owned and operated businesses covering one or two regions or continents, and the international or global corporations, operating in three or more continents. We handle 80 percent of our sales through the last ones, and a double-digit growth rate since 2001,” said Murillo. The commercial director estimates the company’s market participation between 16 and 20 percent.
The company focuses on a strong partnership with its customers to supply the best packaging solution and to optimize the value of their products. According to Murillo, the package is not only the contents’ conservation vehicle but also the product’s image and promotional medium. Packaging sells, and Alcan Packaging Mexico has invested over $30 million since January of 2006 for converter equipment and state-of-the-art rotogravure press and flexography equipment, as well as extrusion and lamination technology at the new Monterrey plant.
“We believe that investing in modern production technologies and equipment allows us to better respond to our customers’ needs. The new high-productivity printing line of European origin will be used in the production of flexible packaging for the food market,” said Murillo. The line is equipped with printing blocs plus coating, and monitoring and inspection systems.
Alcan also employs a strategy whereby “in-plants” of professional teams work within the clients’ facilities on new initiatives and continuous improvement in the areas of sales, conservation techniques and promotional designs.
“In Mexico, we have developed the best technology for packaged bread in the world due to our demand from specific clients, and this has become a specialty,” Murillo said. “We export 13 percent of our production to the United States, Canada, and Central and South America.”
According to Lic. Rocío del Puerto, in charge of the marketing area in Mexico, the company’s competitive advantages are its state-of-the-art technology, technical innovation that allows longer shelf-life to any product, continuous improvement in the areas of delivery time and technical support during and after commercialization, and reduced costs.
“Our packaging,” she said, “in either transparent or opaque flexible plastic, shelters the products from external moisture, excess heat, and protects its color and flavor, while it provides longer shelf-life. Our technical and professional teams are prepared to offer the best support to packaging performance and to improve technical efficiencies, which results in a more cost-effective product in the long-run.”
“Although a great part of our production is automated, we still rely on specialized labor, not only in Mexico, but also around the world. Our centers for excellence share the technology and knowledge that each of our worldwide plants develops. For instance, Mexico has the first plant with laser technology for pre-cut packaging, which facilitates opening flexible packaging without losing the characteristics and benefits of a sealed container. Many professionals and operators from every continent come to Mexico to be trained in this new technology,” Murillo added.
In the Americas, Alcan Packaging is the leading supplier of single and multi-layer, plain and printed, high-barrier plastic films, laminations, pouches, bags, lidstock and thermoformed trays to food, beverage, meat and dairy markets.
DIVERSITY, ENVIRONMENT AND WORK ETHICS
Alcan reflects the many races, cultures and languages of its multilayered employment force around the world, and is respectful of this creative and enthusiastic human rainbow. “Our multifaceted professional team as well as operators and administrative personnel bring to the table an array of skills that result in a competitive company that has strict ethics convictions,” said Murillo.
The company has established a Worldwide Code of Employee and Business Conduct, which is a fundamental component in its success. The code covers all Alcan employees, consultants and suppliers, all of whom are bound by its principles when dealing with or on behalf of Alcan. The code is supplemented by Alcan’s Policies Manual.
The company also has outlined guidelines and procedures for employees conducting business in regions where work and business ethics might be affected by cultural differences. It also stresses teamwork as a desirable approach to problem solving and project implementation.
In addition, the company states that its commitment to environmental, health and safety care is “non-negotiable.” In Alcan Packaging, EHS FIRST (Environment, Health and Safety) is a tool for achieving operational needs with waste reduction programs in place, ergonomic guidelines to improve employees’ performance, and safety within the No-Lost-Time policy. All employees operating at all levels of the organization receive tailored EHS FIRST training programs.
“We believe we are the leading supplier for flexible food packaging worldwide because we focus on a strong partnership with our customers, from whom we learn and improve continuously. Our goal is to supply the best packaging solution to our customers in order to optimize the value of their products. Being a leading manufacturer of the food industry worldwide is a positive proof that we are on the right way,” Murillo concluded.