SHERMAN, Texas - Reynosa, Mexico, is a bustling city nearly 600 miles south of Sherman, in part of the region known as the "Rioplex." This binational, bicultural, bilingual metropolitan area of 2.4 million people includes the Rio Grande Valley counties of Texas and several Mexico border cities, including Reynosa.

Recently, a group of employees from the new CertainTeed fiberglass insulation manufacturing plant in Sherman traveled to Reynosa for some hands-on training in an unusual partnership. CertainTeed's new plant is employing advanced technology in its manufacturing line that is similar to that used in a Reynosa plant owned by CertainTeed's parent company, Saint-Gobain Corp.

"We thought Reynosa's experiences with the technology would be a great training opportunity for us," said Gary Tripp, plant manager of the Sherman facility.

Specialists on the Sherman staff who are responsible for getting the production line up and running received the training they desired. Jared Kennedy, engineering and projects supervisor of Saint-Gobain Abrasives in Reynosa, helped make it all possible.

"We went from the chalkboard and the classroom to live inspections of our manufacturing line during their visit," said Kennedy. "We gave them a thorough overview of the operational, mechanical, and electrical aspects of our line. There were many similar tasks that will be performed in both facilities, as well as electrical and mechanical functions exchange."

The Reynosa plant manufactures two lines of products: coated abrasives used for polishing, cleaning, and finishing products made of such materials as steel, aluminum, wood, and plastics; and bonded abrasives, used in the foundry, automotive, telecommunications, and power supply industries. The CertainTeed plant produces ToughGard2â„¢, which the company calls "an advanced textile duct liner with improved thermal and acoustical values," designed for handling and cutting benefits for fabricators and installers.

So how can one group learn from another when the products, at least on the surface, seem dissimilar?

"We both use fibers in our manufacturing process that must be opened, blended, and formed into an underlying mat in the products," said Tripp.

"Duct liner being produced in Sherman uses primarily straight glass fiber in its mat, while abrasives use a crimped fiber in the mat. But even though the people in Reynosa are using a different fiber and bonding agent, the basic processes are the same, right up the stage when the product enters the curing oven."

Even though the language difference was not a big issue during training with several bilingual members in the group, Sherman's Guevara and Reynosa's Juan Carlos Delgado served as interpreters as needed.

Tripp pointed out that several members of his Sherman staff have used similar manufacturing equipment at a Sherman-area plant several years ago, so they were able to translate that experience to this training.

"The entire training experience and the international nature of this training partnership were extremely valuable to our CertainTeed group," he said.

Publication date: 10/25/2004