Holding its own
This New Brunswick-based operation, one of Amcor PET Packaging's five bottle manufacturing plants in Canada, has seen a number of changes in the Atlantic Canada bottling market in recent years. One of...
This New Brunswick-based operation, one of Amcor PET Packaging’s five bottle manufacturing plants in Canada, has seen a number of changes in the Atlantic Canada bottling market in recent years. One of the company’s long-time customers, Coca Cola, pulled out of the Maritimes when it decided to consolidate its operations in Quebec. While soft drink beverage bottles still form the bulk of the Moncton plant’s business, bottled water now accounts for 15 to 20 percent of sales and has seen significant growth during the last few years.
“We’ve been very encouraged by the growth of the water market,” says plant manager David Kinnear. The plant is currently supplying a number of companies with water bottles in 355 ml, 500 ml, 1 L and 1.5 L sizes. It is also looking to secure more bottled water business in the near future. As the bottled water market has grown, large beverage companies have also entered the market, Kinnear says, noting that Pepsi sponsors the Aquafina label and Coca Cola has the Desani brand.
The company’s main customers in the beverage business are Pepsi, COTT, Big 8 and Cassidy beverages, for which it supplies bottles in sizes ranging from 250 ml to 2 L. It makes bottles in clear and green, which are made from pre-colored PET. It also has the capability to make a blue-tinted bottle for water using color concentrate.
The facility has three Husky injection molding machines for making pre-forms, and three Krupp Coroplast machines, as well as one Milacron machine, for stretch-blowing the pre-forms into bottles. Blow machines run at a rate of between 2,700 and 10,100 bottles per hour. Palletized bottles are usually aged 72 hours before shipping and stored in a high-ceilinged warehouse capable of accommodating three-high pallet stacking.
The Moncton operation has its own budget, and, as well, is empowered to meet its production targets and develop new business. As a member of the Amcor PET Packaging family, however, the facility receives considerable R&D and marketing support at the corporate level, Kinnear stresses. All resin pricing is negotiated through Amcor’s central corporate offices.
There is a high priority placed on reducing costs at the company, as there is in the bottling industry as a whole, notes Kinnear. Designing bottles that are lighter in weight is one strategy used to cut raw material costs. For instance, in 1981 a 2 L bottle weighed about 68 g, compared with 47 g today. As bottles become lighter, the goal to take out still more weight and meet all the performance criteria required for bottles becomes more of a challenge. Amcor, and as it was once known, Twinpak, have been at the forefront in the use of advanced technology to build lighter, stronger bottles through investment in corporate research and development.
At the plant level, employees are encouraged to suggest and implement ways to cut costs and improve efficiencies. The plant’s maintenance staff often manufactures parts that frequently need to be replaced in production equipment, thus saving the premium on parts bought from dealers. Kinnear says the stable, mature workforce of 53 employees contributes to the facility’s ability to control costs and maintain an edge on competitors.
While allowing with typical Maritime modesty that the plant’s goal is to maintain the business it has, Kinnear says it is always on patrol for new business and growth. “We are always looking for new opportunities. Every day we ask ourselves what steps we can take to find new business and customers.”