Made Here at Home: Roanoke's Ardagh Group factory likely fills your pantry's shelves

Published: Oct. 23, 2018 at 5:07 PM EDT
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The first things that strike you at Ardagh's Roanoke facility are the immense size of the factory floor and the speed of production.

Whizzing by so fast you can hardly make out individual containers, this factory makes the tin cans that will line grocery store shelves around the country.

"I probably could walk into your pantry and point out cans that came from this factory, no matter where you are in the United States," Vice President of Operations Brent Pontuti said.

Pontuti helped build this facility in 2014, with an approximately $100 million price tag. Pontuti said this isn't like the factories he grew up with in Youngstown, Ohio.

"Normally that image is dark, dirty, dank, environment," Pontuti said. "This is a very clean facility, very well lit. It is a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. I think people are very surprised when they come in and very impressed with the factory."

Luxembourg-based Ardagh Group employees 23,000 people in 22 countries. They have more than a hundred production facilities, but the Roanoke facility exclusively makes cans, starting with huge spools of raw material.

The steel's pressed into shape, running on magnetized conveyer belts from one floor to the other. Another machine pulls the short, smooth cans into shape, and a third machine creates ridges for better structural strength.

The cans are coated to better preserve the food that will go inside. The interior first appears white but changes to gold when the cans are run through a roughly 400-degree oven.

The plant has 4-shifts running 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Safety Coordinator Nicole Jackson's been at the Roanoke plant since it opened, rising in the ranks and implementing a lot of the safety measures and reminders workers see on the floor.

"It makes me feel really good," Jackson said when we talked about the changes she's implemented. "It makes me feel as though they're hearing my voice and the team members voices also."

Pontuti said Ardagh Group built in Roanoke because of the location: access to transportation routes, customers along the East Coast, and the availability of students coming from technical college.

The Roanoke factory employees more than 300 people, all high-paying, skilled jobs. Pontuti says they're always hiring.

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