Even as it works to complete a costly and complex corporate restructuring, PolyOne Corp. said it will spend more than $6 million this year to upgrade and expand its operations in Asia. The firm already employs 140 people in China alone.
Earlier this year the Cleveland-based resin compounding and distribution giant opened a sales office and customer support laboratory, featuring a pair of twin-screw compounding lines, in Shenzhen in southern China.
The objective of that facility, which employs about 10, is to speed up color-matching and production of small-lot samples of color concentrates, according to Stephen J. Duckworth, international business development director for PolyOne Belgium SA.
``Faster response time is the key,'' Duckworth said Oct. 1 at Interplas in Birmingham. Without a local facility it could take eight days to deliver samples to customers in southern China, he said.
Larger production runs continue at the company's 5-year-old plant in Shanghai's Pudong technology park. PolyOne recently added space there for additional lines, an expanded laboratory and a training room.
Meantime, in nearby Suzhou, the company is realigning and expanding production to handle a wider variety of polymers. Duckworth said PolyOne just placed an order for a new Werner & Pfleiderer 70-millimeter, Mega twin-screw compounding line and an underwater pelletizer. The new equipment, to be delivered by year's end, will allow PolyOne to produce more thermoplastic elastomer compounds, which are selling well in China.
The Suzhou plant already produces engineering polymer compounds including nylon, flame-retardent polypropylene and polycarbonate.
PolyOne has added facilities in Singapore to compound engineering polymers, including TPEs, but it expects to need more capacity there soon. Duckworth said the company currently is studying options for expanding its Singapore plant and building a larger plant in southern China.
Bernard Baert, PolyOne vice president-international, said at Interplas that China currently accounts for less than 4 percent of PolyOne's total corporate compounding and distribution sales. But ``in five years,'' he said,'' we expect that to multiply by 21/2 to 3 times.''
PolyOne also has majority control of a joint venture with color and additive concentrate producer Star Color in Thailand. Among other activities, that plant - as well as the one in Pudong - is busy supplying the growing demand in Asia for color concentrates used to color PET bottles. PolyOne's Belgian technical center provides support to both the Thai and Chinese operations.