South African entrepreneurs, brothers Douglas and Geoffrey de Jager have big plans for their British rigid plastics packaging business, Sharp Interpack Ltd.
A little over a year ago, the brothers bought a string of packaging businesses, including MY Plastics, now renamed Sharp Interpack, from South Africa's Malbak Ltd. Since then, they have spent about 14 million pounds ($23 million) to upgrade facilities at the two Sharp sites in southern England.
Now the de Jagers aim to double their investment with a 10 million pounds ($16.3 million) plan for a new plant and equipment for Sharp's Bridgwater operations and a further 4 million pounds ($6.5 million) for new facilities at the Aylesham site.
``These businesses have been underinvested over the years. The new owners saw the opportunity to invest and upgrade to make them world-class operations,'' explained Ken Morris, the recently appointed South African managing director of the Bridgwater business.
The plan is to concentrate Bridgwater production of food and nonfood containers, including trays for meat and ready meals, in a single 108,000-square-foot plant. The operations are now spread over five separate units. The move is designed to overcome current management and logistical difficulties Sharp Interpack faces in running the business on split sites.
Sharp Interpack, which serves supermarket groups in Britain and in continental Europe, has seen growing demand, particularly for modified-atmosphere packaging for meat, the company said.
Sharp is waiting for local authorities to approve the project, but it anticipates that consent by the end of June. The company expects to have moved operations into the new plant in the first quarter of 2004, said Morris.
Sharp Interpack already has spent about 3 million pounds ($5 million), refurbishing Bridgwater extrusion and thermoforming lines and acquiring a modern warehouse next door that will be integrated with the plant this year.
At the Aylesham site, the firm has invested heavily in new machinery.
During the past year it has spent around 6 million pounds ($10 million) to increase efficiency and satisfy demand for its in-store bakery, salad bar, fresh produce, poultry and custom-made packaging products. New thermoforming equipment already installed includes one Sentinel, three Illig RDKPs and four TFT machines. In January, the plant began running a big new TFT in-line polypropylene extrusion and thermoforming line, installed alongside its three smaller Bellaplast units.
Sharp Interpack also has installed a new case-handling and conveyor system and added a raised packing area at Aylesham.
The firm has ordered a second big in-line extruder and thermoforming line from TFT that will be installed at the plant by year's end, according to Sharp Interpack.
New plans to redevelop the Aylesham site, outlined by Douglas de Jager at a customer open house in early in May, include constructing an engineering shop and a raw materials store and later adding a new warehouse.
Sharp said later plans could include building a new plant on the site.