Will of Steel

The story of Cristamax

Will of Steel

The story of Cristamax

How do big stories of resilience begin? With an obstacle or challenge that the protagonists of the story had not planned. For Alpek’s Univex, that challenge came in the form of a small 4.7-millimeter crystal.

Univex, with more than 40 years in the market, has historically been dedicated to producing caprolactam (the main raw material for the production of Nylon 6) and ammonium sulfate, one of the most efficient fertilizers in Mexico. For years, everything went smoothly.

However, in 2016 its competitors began to import the same product in a more popular presentation among the clientele that Univex did not produce: larger granular fertilizers. Of course, the Univex team was not going to hang around with their arms crossed.

The objective: to produce spheres ranging from 2 to 5 millimeters, which would later be known as Cristamax.

The plan: to optimize the plant that already existed, modifying the crystallizer’s evaporator and motor, changing the type of filtering and varying the types of cleaning.

The obstacles:

– Doing all of the above without affecting the production of caprolactam, the other main product of Univex.
– The necessary technology did not exist in Mexico, they brought it from Switzerland.

Although we would love to finish the story here and say that everything went according to plan, it would not be a story of resilience if it had, right? After all, it was like producing granular salt after years of producing icing sugar.

Six months were spent only on the modification of the evaporator which had to be scheduled with a general maintenance stoppage of the plant so as not to affect the production of caprolactam.

During the first two weeks after beginning the project, they did not know what was going to happen. There were a series of operational problems in various equipment, and, to control them, they had to carry out stoppage and maintenance activities.

The first crystals came out dirty or in the form of rice, the results were inconsistent; clients were unhappy and compared them with other companies. In addition, the production of caprolactam did get affected. So much so that they decided to pause the project to return to the correct production of the main product.

For 3 more years, tests were carried out. And, finally, thanks to the resilience of the team, to their unwavering will and to the ideas contributed by people at all levels of the organization, they achieved it.

Today, Cristamax is so sought after that Univex has more sales orders than they can cover, even though they produce more than what was expected (215 vs. 195 tons per day). All this was not by magic, but thanks to the efforts of a team that decided never to give up.

When in doubt, remember the philosophy of these visionaries with a will to steel.