Monarch Plastics Inc. is in the midst of a building blitz. In September, as the blow molder wrapped up a 60,000-square-foot expansion in Kenosha, Wis., it began adding 27,000 square feet to its Brampton, Ontario, plant. The total cost to Monarch: about US$3.35 million, said Hemang Mehta, co-president and chief executive officer.
By Jan. 31, the Brampton plant will have 90,000 square feet, giving Monarch the room to segregate congested manufacturing, decorating and warehousing into three distinct areas, Mehta said in a recent telephone interview. Monarch has no plans to add capacity at Brampton, but it gradually will upgrade all 15 blow molding machines there - six single stations, one four-station wheel and eight multicavity machines - with oriented robotics and new process controls, an expensive undertaking, he said.
Earlier this year at Brampton, Monarch installed its first trilayer coextrusion line for bottles. In August it introduced a three-layer line at Kenosha, and expects its second there next month. Both lines are part of the US$2.6 million project begun late last year, Mehta said.
Monarch's move to make tri-layer bottles was prompted by demand from both new and long-standing customers. The capability caters to some state legislatures to use 25 percent recycled content, and to the interest of major customers such as S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. and Helene Curtis Industries Inc., Mehta said.
And, perhaps most important, ``all our competitors have it,'' Mehta said.
Aside from more trilayer capacity, the firm wants to get into in-mold labeling, he said. Extrusion blow molding is both plants' staple, using mainly Bekums and Fischers. But they also do in-line injection blow molding, nearly 30 percent at Kenosha and 20 percent at Brampton.
At Kenosha, which employs 95, Monarch literally has no ground left to break, Mehta said. Yet it is the U.S. market that the company wants to grow, he said, by adding a plant or acquiring a company, probably ``related to molding and plastic containers,'' he said.
Of Monarch's $28 million in sales, Kenosha's business makes up $10 million in markets that include household cleaners, personal-care products, pharmaceuticals, food packaging and novelties.
Monarch likes getting involved in difficult projects, Mehta said, such as a complicated two-bottle combo put together with a shrink sleeve for S.C. Johnson's Vanish-brand mildew cleaner. The firm's research and development team takes part early on in designing such complex packages, he said.
Monarch does R&D in both Kenosha and Brampton, and it has no centralized headquarters since top executives reside in both cities. President and Chief Executive Eric De Souza is at Brampton and Mehta in Kenosha, a strategy that keeps either outfit from feeling ``left out in the wild and being treated as a stepsister,'' Mehta said.
``We work very closely together. It's a good marriage.''
Another Monarch concern, Swissplas Ltd., which was acquired seven years ago, blow molds handleware containers in Concord, Ontario.