40 Years in Puerto Rico
A Close Look at Sartorius’ First International Production Site
In 1983, 40 years ago, Sartorius opened its first international production site in Yauco, Puerto Rico. Over the following decades, it has developed into one of the most important sites for Sartorius, particularly in serving the North American market. Discover more about the history of this location.
This article is posted on Sartorius Blog.
International Focus Right from the Start
Shortly after its founding in 1870 in the German university town of Göttingen, Sartorius was already active beyond its regional boundaries. During what economic history research refers to as the first period of globalization, the company participated in renowned exhibitions and also received international recognition, including prestigious awards for example at the 1876 World's Fair in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where it was honored for its innovative short-beam analytical balance.
Around a hundred years later, with the onset of the so-called second period of globalization, Sartorius established its own sales companies, initially in other European countries, and in 1976 in the United States —the most important export market. In the late 1970s, plans were initiated to set up the company’s first production site outside of Germany. This led to the establishment of a membrane filter production facility in Yauco, Puerto Rico, which is an unincorporated U.S. territory.
A Gateway to the American Market
In Germany, Puerto Rico was not widely considered a major destination for investment at that time. Sartorius was among the pioneering German firms to open a production facility on the island. The decision was driven by various factors, with proximity to the important North American growth market and its customer base being a significant factor. Puerto Rico was seen as a gateway to the American market and not just "an island in the sun," as emphasized in a market research report. Additionally, Puerto Rico had established the world's first "Export Processing Zone" (a special economic zone) in 1947, making it an attractive location for greenfield investments due to its special economic development programs. Furthermore, the Göttingen site had reached its capacity limits in meeting the increasing demand for membrane filter production.
A special feature of the investment was that it was originally made by the Sartorius family, who owned the company, with the Sartorius company acting as the general contractor. It was not until February 1990 that ownership of the site was transferred from the family to Sartorius.
Long-Term Thinking Pays Off: Puerto Rico as a Key Manufacturing and Logistics Site
After the site officially opened in 1983, some challenges had to be overcome. These included adapting the casting machine, which is the heart of membrane filter production, to the tropical climate conditions, as well as organizational issues.