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Richard L. DiMeola

Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Consolidated Cigar Corporation
From the Print Edition:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Summer 96

(continued from page 2)

CA: When I visited your factory a few years ago, you showed me a suction-testing method for cigars. When was that testing process implemented, and is that still the primary method of quality control?

DiMeola: The suction quality control was implemented in October '85 as we converted the factory back to a handmade operation. I knew we had the machines that were doing spot checking of suction, because as you know, the biggest complaint among premium cigar smokers has to do with the draw. But I asked, "What if we tested every cigar we made? Can we do it?" They said yes. I said OK, let's do it. And we constructed the machinery so that we test every cigar we make by hand for draw before it becomes a cigar.

CA: Are there any other cigar companies that use such a suction tester?

DiMeola: The machines are common.

CA: Most of the factories that I've been to test by weight. They take bundles, usually of 50 cigars, and weigh it for a difference of so many ounces above or below the norm. That's the way they determine if some of the cigars are too heavy, and therefore won't draw well. Isn't that the standard testing procedure with only spot suction tests?

DiMeola: I don't think anybody else tests every one. We used to do that, too, by weight--bundles of 50, but then we asked the question, How do you know the variance among the individual cigars? When we started our suction program, we were reworking 35 percent of our bunches. Today we're reworking about 9 percent.

CA: How many people were involved in cigar production at La Romana in 1985 versus today?

DiMeola: I have to estimate, because I don't remember exactly. I can tell you this. We had under 400 people in the whole factory in 1985. Today we have 1,650. We have about 650 people who are focused on the hand-rolling/bunching operation. We're growing all the time. We have a second shift building now, so that we'll go to maybe 800.

CA: What were the business highlights between 1985 and 1996?

DiMeola: When I joined, I found that the situation was worse than I thought. Montecruz business had dwindled from the days when they were making Montecruz in the Canary Islands. It used to be a much bigger brand.

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