CHICAGO — Van Leer Flexibles LP is investing $20 million to boost space and capacity at its Houston facility, and to install a computer-integrated manufacturing system.
The Houston-based company is adding its eighth line to produce Valeron, a cross-laminated high density polyethylene film, and its third high-tech laminator. The combination will boost the facil-ity's total capacity 30 percent, the company said.
In August, Van Leer completed the addition of 42,000 square feet of space to its Houston plant, giving it 152,000 square feet of manufacturing space.
The total expansion should be complete by 2000, President Bud Philbrook said Nov. 10 at Pack Expo 98 in Chicago. Philbrook joined the division in May.
The company hopes to take advantage of the emerging Latin American market for Valeron, he said. To that end, it hired Rebecca Buse-Morrissey in October as sales manager-Latin America.
``We see the Westernization of Latin America as a big opportunity,'' Philbrook said. ``Valeron sells best in sophisticated markets, and Latin America is becoming more sophisticated, from a technological viewpoint.''
The firm's ultimate parent, Royal Packaging Industries BV, already has a strong presence in South America, particularly in Brazil, Philbrook said.
``We understand Latin America very well. We thought we'd stick our toe in the water and see what develops.''
Van Leer recently formed two new-product development groups and hired product sales managers for each: John Coyne joined Performance Packaging in November, and Phil Farchione joined Performance Print Media in July.
Another recent addition to the staff is Paul McKenna, who in August was named national sales manager, building products.
The current expansion is one of several in recent years for the firm. In 1997, Van Leer added an Egan extrusion line, its third specialty film line. In 1996, it invested $6 million to increase Valeron capacity to 20 million pounds a year.
Van Leer makes high-strength films for child-resistant and barrier packaging, hazardous materials packaging, tags, labels, banners and envelopes. At Pack Expo, the firm introduced Valex heat-sealable films, designed for packaging pesticides, insecticides, foodstuffs, pet foods and chemicals. Valex films are available in thicknesses of 21/2-5 mils.
Van Leer Flexibles LP ranked 78th in Plastics News' survey of film and sheet manufacturers, with estimated sales of $45 million in 1997. It is a unit of Van Leer Holding of East Providence, R.I.