Thermoformer Buckell Plastic Co. has moved to a new facility and expanded its product line, part of a shift by the company since its owner returned from a trip to China last year.
President Brian Schell went on a trade mission to China sponsored by the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. He came back knowing that the company had to make some changes to compete.
``I knew that we needed to reinvent ourselves,'' said Schell of his 40-year-old, family-owned business. ``We needed to be leaner and go after niche markets like food and medical packaging. Customers may not be as apt to go offshore for those products.''
Schell's company, based in Lewistown, Pa., already was preparing to move to a new facility five miles away when Schell went to China. Buckell had split space 50-50 with another tenant, a chocolate maker, in its previous site. That tenant wanted to take over the 100-year-old building and expand.
Schell had purchased a building in another Lewistown industrial park in 2003 when the tenant faced financial problems and was forced to sell, he said. The building offered the same amount of space but had higher, 24-foot ceilings and a more-efficient, modern layout, he said.
The company spent about $2.2 million to buy the building and prepare the space, he said. The company started moving equipment Dec. 6 and just completed the process, Schell said. Ten workers were added, bringing the total to 40.
The 50,000-square-foot facility includes electrical and compressed water and air systems built into the floor, making it easier to keep the facility clean and offering better climate control for the equipment, he said. The company set up a lean work flow and hired a Six Sigma expert to help reduce waste.
The cleaner facility will help Buckell boost its medical work, which includes glycol-modified PET trays used in operating rooms, he said.
Buckell specializes in clamshell and blister packaging for consumer products and trays for electronic carriers. The firm recorded about $4 million in sales last year, Schell said.
After going to China in June, Schell considered ways to expand his business, including opening a facility in that country. But it was not feasible, he said.
``Instead, we looked at how we could compete regionally as a smaller, privately held company,'' he said. ``Companies our size don't always have the resources to invest in China. We can't take the risk. But we can make some changes here.''
Buckell was founded in 1964 by Schell's father, Clarence.