Bemis Co. Inc. is closing two extruded film plants by mid-September in an effort to cut back on its commodity-driven polyethylene packaging business and shift more attention to its high-barrier products.
The plant shutterings in Union City, Calif., and Prattville, Ala., bring to three the number of recent closings announced by Minneapolis-based Bemis. The company also said in early July that it would shut down a printed film facility in Murphysboro, Ill., by mid-September.
The moves are highly unusual for Bemis, said spokeswoman Melanie Miller on July 24. The company had not closed a plant since 1995 and seldom has had to resort to consolidating operations after making acquisitions, she said.
But both the Union City and Prattville facilities were part of Bemis' PE packaging product line, an area that has slumped in volume due to price competition and weak demand from industrial markets, she said. The facilities make monolayer extruded film used for nonfood applications such as the plastic overwrap for mattresses in shipping and for box liners, she said.
That market has become more of a low-margin business, Miller said. The company would like to focus attention on its faster-growing Curwood Group unit, a maker of coextruded blown film that is primarily used for specialized, high-barrier applications.
``We are emphasizing trying to move the PE product lines up the value scale and adding more consumer conveniences and features,'' Miller said.
The Prattville facility, with about 85 employees, was purchased in 2001 from Wright Plastics Co. The 94,000-square-foot building served a need at the time for excess capacity in extruded film, handling the overflow from Bemis' Terre Haute, Ind., plant. But that excess capacity has diminished, Miller said.
Bemis bought the Union City plant in 1959, she said. Equipment at the facility has not been upgraded in a long time, compounding the need to close the plant or remodel it, she said. The Union City plant has 60 people.
Employees at both Union City and Prattville were notified July 22 of the impending shutdown. By closing those plants and the Murphysboro facility, Bemis will save about $16 million annually, Miller said. The Murphysboro facility both prints and extrudes specialty film but also was in need of new equipment, she said.
Bemis will move equipment from the Prattville plant to other facilities, possibly to Terre Haute or to Hazleton, Pa., Miller said. Equipment at the other facilities will be sold, she said.