Add PET Processors LLC to the growing list of plastics firms that recognize they need to specialize to survive and prosper.
In July, PET Processors opened a small-batch polymerization operation at its Painesville site. The unit can produce commercial grades of amorphous or solid-state PET pellets.
The firm's main businesses have been solid-stating PET for various resin makers and PET recycling. In 1999, PET Processors added a smaller solid-stating line capable of doing lots of 400-500 pounds. That move eventually led to the firm buying the polymerization unit from BP Amoco Chemical Co., PET Processors Vice President Rick Blakeslee said in a recent interview in Painesville.
``We had been doing high-volume solid stating of clear PET, but industrywide, there's more solid-stating capacity than what's needed, so we realized specialization was going to be our future,'' said Blakeslee.
BP Amoco had operated the unit at a site in Naperville, Ill., but it was underutilized. BP Amoco now is a PET Processors customer, and the two firms have an ongoing technical partnership.
Potential polymerization customers include ``every person in the PET value chain,'' according to Blakeslee. To date, customers have included makers of resins, additives and catalysts. PET Processors already has a backlog of three to four weeks for polymerization orders.
Typically, Blakeslee said, the unit can produce a 60- to 80-pound batch of resin - enough to make 1,000 bottles or 40 pounds of film - in about 18 hours.
``It's easy for a resin company to make 2 pounds or less of a material or 10,000 pounds or more, but it's tough for them to keep a machine like this busy 200 days a year,'' he explained. ``It makes more sense for them to work with us instead of building a similar-type facility for themselves.''
In that way, testing of new materials at PET Processors can lead to additional business for its solid-stating operations if the client decides to ramp up commercial production. But Blakeslee was quick to point out that his firm is not a technology company.
PET Processors also recently expanded its recycling business, installing a fifth extrusion line in October. Now the firm can pelletize 60 million pounds of recycled material a year.
The company employs 80 in Painesville and 16 at a smaller plant in Dumfries, Scotland.
Although the firm doesn't release sales figures, Blakeslee said about two-thirds of the business is in solid stating, with the remainder in recycling. A Plastics News ranking of North American recyclers estimated PET Processors' 2002 recycling sales at $15 million.