Oct 15, 2017 News
At Diamond, East Bank Demerara, next door to the Government’s drug bond, a little factory has
quietly started operations. But its impact is anything but quiet.
Flexotech Inc. is a plastic-producing operation whose presence here will be making a significant, positive impact on operational costs and add value of local manufacturers, including those involved in the sugar, flour and food business.
A number of big players, including two large drinks companies, have already expressed interest in the products of the company, which is churning out flexo packaging materials, including labels, printed film, T-shirt bags, shopping bags, and industrial packaging for rice and sugar.
According to Paulo Melo, Manager of Flexotech Inc., his company’s presence here is a game changer for manufacturers and retailers who have been spending millions of dollars annually to import packaging materials and other items to add value to their products.
“Let me make it clear that no longer will our companies be forced to expend tens of millions of dollars on inventory from abroad in packaging material and shopping bags. We are producing them right here in Guyana,” Melo stressed during a tour of his factory last week.
The company has partnered with the well-known Karibee rice producers from Berbice, Nand Persaud and Company Limited, in plunging a $500M major investment in cutting edge technology and training for Guyanese.
“We have more than 90 percent of the 20-odd staffers being Guyanese, people who go home for lunch in Diamond and who have been trained to run the machines themselves.”
Melo’s company, from Brazil, is no stranger to Guyana. It has been supplying rice equipment from that country to Guyanese millers for a number of years now. In fact, Melo is now a Guyanese citizen.
Prior to Flexotech, many of the manufacturers were forced to import their custom-made packaging and plastic bags from abroad. This involved millions of dollars in inventory being tied up.
“The problem that many companies were facing is that no companies abroad want to supply a small order. So you have to order big…containers…and have at least six months supplies in stock, making it very difficult for small business to add value in their products.”
Nand Persaud was one company that suffered the problem. It is one of the biggest clients of Flexotech now.
“As one of my clients, we were discussing the issue and one thing led to another,” Melo explained.
The rice company and the Brazilian entity decided to explore the idea and found that that it
made a lot of sense.
“I had linkages with a company that produced in Brazil as we had marketed products right here in Guyana.”
In December, the company managed to rent a warehouse in Diamond and after consultations with its people, fitted it to specifications.
“We had to do it to international standards…in fact we are meeting ISO-9001 standards, which attest to quality.”
Engaging the Guyana Office For Investment (GO-Invest) and other agencies, today FlexoTech has 20-plus staffers, including two overseas experts, who are involved in training.
Already, one large food and drinks company has committed to using the company’s products and there are talks ongoing with another.
“We are also involved in producing labels. We have had visits from one food group and we are talking with another involved in the flour business.”
According to Melo, the big advantage of using Flexotech for local manufacturers is the flexibility.
“Let me explain. We don’t have to take an order for two containers. The companies are right here and we can produce less according to your demands. Then, there is no shipping or waiting time. We work 24/7.”
The official also indicated that many small companies, which before would have to depend on overseas companies for supplies, have the option of coming to the factory.
“Many of these small companies don’t have the budget for huge investments in inventory that is just sitting there. They can order according to their demands.”
But it is not always been easy for the company. It was forced to purchase a huge generator to power the factory.
Melo admitted that the Guyana Power and Light was asking for an almost $40M deposit to hook up the factory.
”We used the money to buy a generator. That there is a bottleneck, but we are dealing with it.”
While there were some tax and other concessions, Flexotech did not receive all that it was promised.
Already, a number of rice companies have expressed interest in buying the packaging materials from Flexotech.
“We are touching base with overseas markets like Brazil and Jamaica. We want to compete with Trinidad. And we can do it…these machines are the latest…very efficient.”
Making his case for the feasibility of such a venture, Melo disclosed that the market has demand of up to 100,000 kilos of plastic monthly …including garbage bags, T-shirt bags and packaging materials for rice, sugar and wraps.
“Of course the drinks and other companies, like the construction firms, also have a demand. We want to target them.”
At the factory, women were involved in the packing side of things with even female operators seen.
Melo explained that his company is importing the resins (little bead-like materials) from the US, which are then processed to form the plastic, which is rolled and later printed or placed through other machines to make different type of bags.
Already, Flexotech is looking for bigger markets.
“We have some machines coming in by the end of the year. That will be able to produce a co-extruded plastic film that will extend the shelf life for food product – the first of its kind in the Caribbean industry. We are looking to put Guyana products on the map by taking packaging and quality to another level.”
Flexotech’s presence would come at time when consecutive administrations have been pushing for more value-added. However, there have been continued complaints of bottlenecks at the start-up stage.
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