Philip Morris Holland B.V. first opened its doors over 30 years ago in Bergen op Zoom in Brabant. The company estimated it would turn out around 25 billion cigarettes a year, however the factory already started expanding before the first cigarette had even been shipped. The workforce at that time numbered almost 1,000 and it has grown to over 1,400 by 2011. Production has likewise risen throughout the years to a record volume of over 96 billion cigarettes in 2006. This makes Philip Morris Holland one of Philip Morris International’s largest cigarette factories world wide. To give you an idea of the technology involved, one high-speed machine in Bergen op Zoom produces some 16,000 cigarettes per minute.
Philip Morris Holland brings the whole world together, as it were, in Bergen op Zoom: raw tobacco comes from locations around the world, including Turkey, Greece, North and South America and Africa, and fabricated cigarettes are shipped to Japan, Italy, France, Spain and the Benelux region. Apart from fabricated cigarettes, the company exports semi-manufactured product, that are generated by what is called the factory’s “primary” department. The most part of the processed tobacco produced there however goes on to become part of the “secondary” process: manufacturing and packaging cigarettes. Here, the challenge lies in combining the various natural varieties of tobacco into consistent mélanges. Since the early days, cigarette production has become a highly complicated process, with a large variety of blends, special characteristics and packaging; being produced for a large number of export countries.
Philip Morris International has invested tens of millions of dollars in the Bergen op Zoom plant since its opening, with investment going into expansions, quality assurance and improvement of production. A unique aspect is the company’s approach to logistics, which has always been its greatest strength. The entire logistical process is fully automated, from the moment the raw materials arrive all the way through to end-product distribution.
Philip Morris Holland is one of Brabant’s largest employers, with most of the staff at the Bergen op Zoom factory being locals. This is echoed in the regional and local involvement of the company and, despite restrictions due to tobacco legislation, Philip Morris Holland B.V. still manages to relay its sense of corporate social responsibility in the city and region as a whole.
When the manufacturer first arrived in Brabant, the tax regime in the Netherlands and the region’s logistic conditions were the decisive factors. “When it comes to the latter, we’re still seeing the benefits every day,” says Philip Morris Holland general manager Peter Haasse. “Rail, road and water transport in particular are of crucial importance to us, and in that respect Brabant offers excellent facilities.”