Friday, February 17, 2012

Ink maker in Charlotte boasts global reach

If you're drinking soda from a can right now, chances are it's adorned with ink that was made here in Charlotte, at a plant off Westinghouse Boulevard.

INX International Ink Co. makes ink for the aluminum can market. Its 46,000-square-foot Charlotte facility, which opened in 2004, is the world’s largest two-piece metal decorating ink plant, according to INX’s website.

The company dominates its niche, with 100 percent domestic market share and 70 percent internationally, says Al Baird, INX general manager here.

At the 70-person plant, Baird says, “we take a liquid and put it into a colored pigment. We mix it up, and then we grind it into an ink. That ink gets applied at the can maker to aluminum cans.”

Some of the company’s handiwork is on display in the lobby: row after row of aluminum cans, ranging from Coke to Pepsi to Bud Light to Miller Lite. The company’s four clients are the major aluminum can makers: Ball Corp.’s Metal Beverage Packaging Division, Metal Container Corp. (part of Anheuser-Busch), Rexam Containers and Crown Cork & Seal Co.

INX is part of Sakata INX, a Japanese conglomerate.

Baird, 52, sat down with me last week to discuss INX’s success, what lies ahead and how the company guards against complacency. What follows is an excerpt of the interview that will run in Sunday's MoneyWise section.

Q. How's business?

“Business has been very steady. It’s very strong. It’s been steady through all the economic cycles. We’ve kept a steady pace of volume out here.”

Q. How have you done that?

“I think the worldwide demand for the aluminum can. It’s a very environmentally friendly product; it’s 100 percent recyclable. If every can would be recycled again, there’d be no need to mine any bauxites, at least for the beverage can industry. It’s a very economic package. It’s very durable. It’s friendly to low-cost shipping because it’s so light. You get tremendous value in this package.”

Q. Has your payroll fluctuated much in the last couple of years?

“We’ve gone up a little bit. I think the biggest increase you see is that we have more technical service people now than we’ve ever had. I think it’s a shift to give our customers better service at their site. You don’t see a lot of people in the lab today because they’re out on the customers’ locations. We do quite a bit of travel here. Our lab people will go all over the world. Right now we have a guy in Brazil, and he’s been there for two weeks. We had two people in Europe last year for long stints. Vietnam is another one.”

For more info, visit the parent company's website at


A Fitzpatrick said...

Nice to see this local success story!