Teknor Apex plans new German plant

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Caroline Seidel A welcome sign at Fakuma in Friedrichshafen, Germany.

Materials firm Teknor Apex Co. has big plans for its German business.

Pawtucket, R.I.-based Teknor will break ground early next year on a new 15,000-square-meter plant in Rothenburg that will house Plastic-Technologie-Service, the compounding firm that Teknor acquired in early 2016.

The new plant will employ 140 and operate nine or 10 production lines. It's expected to begin production by mid-2019. Teknor then will ramp down the PTS plant in nearby Steinsfeld, as well as consolidate a sales and marketing office in Tauberzell into Rothenburg.

"This is going to be a site that we own, instead of leasing like we did in Steinsfeld," Teknor President William Murray said in a recent interview with Plastics News. "We'll be adjacent to the autobahn and will have room to expand."

"We realized that to be a global supplier, this is something we needed to do," added Suresh Swaminathan, Teknor's senior vice president. "And it was important to us to find a new site that was close to the original site so that we could retain all of our employees."

Murray said Teknor already was looking at sites in Germany when its plant in Oldbury, England, was destroyed by a fire in early 2015. Damage to the Oldbury site was so extensive that Teknor decided not to rebuild there.

"We already were talking to people in Germany," Murray said. "But the fire accelerated the process."

Swaminathan added that PTS, which had worked with Teknor for 15 years on various projects, was one of the first firms to offer Teknor assistance after the fire.

PTS was founded in 1986 by Uwe Stenglin, who stepped down as managing director in 2016.

Walter Baumann has been managing director for more than a year and is making his European trade show debut with PTS Teknor Apex at Fakuma.

Teknor officials said in August that the aim of the new facility is to create "a hub of innovation" for the European market. The Rothenburg plant will produce compounds based on thermoplastic elastomers and engineering thermoplastics, ranging from general-purpose compounds to highly specialized formulations.

A new lab at the site will be used for developing new compounds and providing customers with design support, application development and product/process training. The new site also will accelerate the technology transfer that has been underway since the 2016 acquisition, officials said earlier.

Teknor in Germany already makes U.S.-developed compounds such as Monprene TPEs and Chemlon nylons. In the U.S., Teknor has begun production of German-developed products such as Creamid and Duramid nylons.

The European market is an important one for Teknor, generating about 20 percent of the firm's annual sales. "PTS had been focused on automotive, electrical and electronic, and consumer markets in Germany, so we're well-positioned for that," Swaminathan said. "We'll also be able to bring our TPE and [engineering thermoplastic] products to new opportunities. We see the European market as a good place to be."

Teknor also operates a European plant making thermoplastic vulcanizate (TPV) compounds in Genk, Belgium.

Other global growth projects for the firm include adding a 200,000-square-foot warehouse and a new PVC compounding line in Brownsville, Tenn., and a 100,000-square-foot expansion in Fountain Inn, S.C. Teknor also is adding a new compounding line at its plant in Suzhou, China.

On the product front, Teknor is promoting low-smoke, halogen-free flame-retardant (LS HFFR) compounds for wire and cable applications. The compounds are sold under the Halguard brand name and comply with the European Union's new Construction Products Regulation (CPR).

CPR, which took effect July 1, affects products for permanent installation in a building structure, such as data cables, control cables and building wire, Teknor officials said in a news release. "Teknor Apex is experienced with CPR classifications and has already helped customers in their programs for achieving CPR compliance," wire and cable industry manager David Braun said in the release.

Teknor was founded as a tire recapper in 1924. The firm now employs more than 2,000 worldwide and has annual sales of more than $600 million. In North America, Teknor is one of the region's 30 largest makers of compounds and concentrates, according to Plastics News data.

Teknor's compounds are used in applications ranging from wire and cable products to automotive, medical, consumer and industrial products.

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