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Tetra-Pak to receive more work from Mexico

Thursday, January 22, 2004

A worker reviews one of the cartons for a one-liter milk carton as it comes off the press.
SIKESTON - The printing press rolled off piece after piece in bright blues on a white background. Workers gathered round to check the quality of their work which touted "alpura Clasica" and "Leche entera pasteurizada adicionada con vitaminas A y D."

In a switch from so many of today's business stories, Tetra Pak announced Wednesday of the transfer of work from a Mexican plant to the United States. The company's plant in Sikeston will produce the Naucalpan Tetra Rex packaging for the growing pasteurized milk market in Mexico.

In his announcement, Bo Wirsen, president of Tetra Pak Asia and Americas, explained the company's Mexico management team had spent several months evaluating strategies to improve Tetra Rex packages to satisfy the growing market demands yet at the same time improve competitiveness.

"Sikeston has the right equipment for improved package performance and available capacity," Wirsen stated in his announcement. "This will allow Tetra Pak Mexico to meet customer's demand in a timely manner and take the most advantage of the production resources that Tetra Pak has available in the region."

Wirsen noted it will mean the loss of 21 jobs at the Naucalpan plant.

The official announcement is one Sikeston Tetra Pak officials were anticipating for several months.

"Because of international competition, Tetra Pak for the past several years has been streamlining and consolidating operations," said John Bryant, manager of the local plant. "The weaker factories for strategic reasons are being absorbed by the stronger plants."

In November, the Sikeston plant began production of some of the cartons for the Mexican market. Now that it is official Bryant said production will reach 13 million in January and up to 20 to 25 million by April.

To meet the increased production the local plant for the past three months has added employees to its staff. The addition of the work from Mexico increased the local work force by about 20 percent, Bryant stated.

It also brings additional investment. Over $100,000 in equipment is being delivered this week to convert one of the presses.

The new cutting and creasing tools will double the capacity to produce the Tetra Rex configuration carton, according to the plant manager. Some 190 million liter and 10 million half liter cartons are to be shipped by truck from the plant to Mexico.

Describing their presses as state-of-the-art, Bryant said the Sikeston plant offered the company several value-added features when it came to printing the cartons for the Mexican market. Also he noted the retooling brought about more efficient and economical use of local capacity.

But, he insisted, it wasn't just the machinery that brought the jobs to the Sikeston facility. Bryant was quick to praise the company's local work force describing them as "seasoned" with an average employment of 20 years of service.

"Because of their hard work, loyalty and commitment to produce quality packaging at lower costs, this factory has continued to grow and prosper," Bryant said.

He pointed out this is the second time recently the strength of the Sikeston plant's production has brought increased business. In January 2003, Tetra Pak closed a plant in Pamona, Calif., and approximately two-thirds of its volume, some 300 million packages, was moved to the Sikeston plant for production.

"It's only through commitment and dedication of the employees that our factory can continue to grow and prosper while others are being downsized and closed," Bryant said.

The plant was built in 1957 in Sikeston and purchased by Tetra Pak in 1993. The local company produces 1.4 billion cartons annually creating cartons which will not only be used in the United States but for companies worldwide including Egypt and Indonesia as well as now Mexico.

"Tetra Pak," summed up Bryant, "is a world class organization that has the goal of being competitive anywhere, anytime, at any price."