Regional color compounders aren't the only ones reacting to growth in the concentrates sector - big boys like A. Schulman Inc. and Ampacet Corp. are getting into the act as well.
Both firms recently added capacity in their color concentrates units. Fairlawn, Ohio-based Schulman has expanded in San Luis Potos¡, Mexico; while Tarrytown, N.Y.-based Ampacet has boosted its presence in Heath, Ohio.
The Schulman move includes a pair of new twin-screw extrusion lines in a 40,000-square-foot building adjacent to Schulman's site there. The lines will add 5 million pounds of annual capacity. The total cost of the project, which resulted in 12 new jobs, was $3.5 million.
In a telephone interview, Schulman President and Chief Executive Officer Terry Haines said the Mexican expansion resulted from ``natural growth of [processors] doing their own coloring instead of using pre-color.''
The new lines represent Schulman's first color concentrates production in Mexico, Haines added. Its output primarily will be sold into film and packaging, consumer products and automotive applications.
Schulman's financial fortunes appear to be improving of late. Sales were up 12 percent to $267 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2003, which ended Nov. 30. First-quarter profit was up 60 percent to $8.3 million, compared with the same quarter a year ago.
For its 2002 fiscal year, Schulman's sales were flat at about $967 million, but its profit nearly tripled to more than $32 million.
Schulman in early February announced plans to save at least $6 million by the start of its 2004 fiscal year. The firm took a step toward that goal March 4 when it anounced 11 administrative and support staff job cuts at its compounding plant in Bellevue, Ohio. The plant will continue to employ about 50 staff positions and 110 production personnel.
In Heath, Ampacet has spent $10 million to double the size of the facility to 80,000 square feet. Four twin-screw extruders were installed, along with a trilayer blow molding machine for color-development projects.
The new capacity and equipment will help in rapid delivery of small-lot color masterbatches, which Ampacet defines as 2,000-10,000 pounds, and will guarantee color matching in three days or less, Ampacet officials said in a news release. The project also will help with handling of food- and pharmaceutical-grade materials.
``Small-lot color hasn't been as big of a segment for us, but we wanted to do a better job of serving color markets, especially in blow molding,'' Ampacet President and Chief Executive Officer Bob DeFalco said by telephone.
Employment levels in Heath won't be affected by the expansion, although Ampacet has hired a pair of technical support staffers there in the past year, DeFalco said.
Ampacet's 2002 sales were flat at just a shade over $500 million, but the firm's volume in pounds increased 2 percent compared with 2001.