By: Jim Johnson
June 11, 2014
MRC Polymers Inc. could have easily decided to stay the course, be successful and make its money.
But, instead, the Illinois-based plastics recycler and compounder is embarking on a journey to double sales.
MRC Polymers is making a big wager. On itself. One that CEO Paul Binks expects to pay off.
“Our five-year plan is to double. We’ve bet on ourselves. We’ve put the equipment in that we can do it. So we just need to go do it now. It’s build it and they will come, right?” he said.
With annual sales of $40 million these days, MRC Polymers looks toward the end of this decade with a goal of $80 million.
To get there, the company has relocated its headquarters to roomier surrounds in Romeoville, Ill. That site not only houses offices, but also serves as a warehouse and staging ground for the recyclable plastics that serve as raw materials for the company’s compounding operations in Chicago.
MRC Polymers’ location along South Lawndale Avenue in Chicago has overhead silos for storage, but shop-floor logistics had become challenging over time as the growing company was forced to store additional recycled plastics in gaylord containers. By moving that inventory to Romeoville and adopting a just-in-time approach to manufacturing, the Chicago site freed up space for more machinery, including two new extruders as well as variety of auxiliary equipment such as mixing vessels and a dryer.
The company has invested about $2.7 million between the headquarters move and addition of new equipment.
“We can tread water and run our nice little company and keep making money every year and not worry too much or we can take the leap,” Binks said. “The old saying is if you are not growing, you are dying. And we’re not going to die.”
Romeoville’s 100,000 square feet of space doubles that of the company’s old headquarters along 31st Street in Chicago.
“It allows us to be more of a full-service recycler,” said Jayme Dood, director of operations at R-Source, the company’s recycling division. “Giving us a much larger footprint and an ability to recycle all of these different materials in one location.”
R-Source procures recycled plastic for MRC Polymers’ own use while also providing broader recycling services to other companies.
The company, historically, had only been interested in receiving and processing recycled plastics. But now, with more space, it can offer clients one-stop shopping by handing all of their recyclables. It is collaborating with SBC Recycling, based in Centerburg, Ohio, to launch the expanded recycling operation in Romeoville.
“We were basically selective of what we were buying. Now we can go in and be a whole solution to your recycling issues at your plant,” Binks said. “We take everything out of your plant and take it to Romeoville, sort out what we need and then sell the other material to other people, like the cardboard and maybe a plastic we don’t use.”
Moving storage of much of the company’s raw material out of the Lawndale site allows MRC Polymers to better utilize the existing space for added production. “The expansion of Romeoville allowed us to expand at Lawndale,” said Dave Lawson, director of operations at Lawndale.
“What we evolved into is … for the first time ever the ability to have just-in-time delivery of our raw materials. And what that leads to is the efficiency to deal with material that we’re going to process today and tomorrow,” he said. “So that facilitates floor space, which facilitates the ability to add new lines.”
“I changes the game for us as a manufacturer because it allows us to become more efficient and more organized,” Lawson said.
Lawndale now can focus more on manufacturing and less on logistics.
“From an efficiency standpoint, it allows you to focus on the next 24 hours verses moving material from one place to another just to get to the material you want,” Lawson said.
Part of Lawndale’s expansion includes a new compounding line that adds 8 million pounds of capacity to the facility. The company currently processes about 50 million pounds of recycled material each year.
A focus on new products
With a rather aggressive growth goals, MRC Polymers Inc. realizes the status quo just won’t cut it.
And that’s where Joe Spuria comes in.
As product development manager, his job is to, well, develop new products that will help push sales higher in the years ahead.
“We’ve been busy in 2013 and early 2014. With the strategy of doubling our sales in five years, we need new products to go after new business. So that’s what we’ve been doing here,” he said.
The company’s R Source recycling division has cast a larger net and now procures a wider range of recycled materials to serve as a basis for MRC Polymers’ expanding output.
“With R Source finding new raw materials, I’m almost like a kid in a candy store at my extruder, playing with new olefins, all different types of properties, new [polycarbonate]/ABS streams, new polycarbonate streams to develop new products,” Spuria said.
MRC Polymers is out with nine new grades of recycled homopolymer and compolymer polypropylenes as well as new recycled PC/ABS products.
The unfilled polypropylene products — four homopolymer, five copolymer — join two new PC/ABS products.
One of the new PC/ABS products is designed to go up against high-heat ABS where performance is more important than aesthetics. This new black product, with 50-percent recycled content, is designed to provide “good impact and heat resistance.”
Another new PC/ABS offering is designed for appearance applications, the company said, and provides a high-gloss appearance and comes in both black and natural that can be colored. This new product also has 50-percent post-consumer content.
Polypropylene, which has been a small market for the company over the years, will grow in importance in the upcoming years, CEO Paul Binks said.
“Propylene will be the biggest single base resin we’ll be selling. It will far outweigh the polycarbonate and PC/ABS by the time we get to $80 million,” he said, in annual sales.