Film producer Pliant Corp. is investing $15 million this year to upgrade equipment and technology for its fast-growing personal-care and food-packaging business.
Pliant, based in Schaumburg, Ill., will install its first seven-layer coextrusion line for cast film, two new 10-color flexographic printing presses and a sophisticated electron-beam coating process for printed film. The equipment will go to three plants and be installed between June 1 and the end of the year, said Keith Brechtelsbauer, vice president of marketing for specialty products.
Ken Swanson, Pliant's president of personal-care and food-products business unit, said the investment backs Pliant's push to make that unit a cornerstone of its business.
Personal-care applications include backsheet film for diapers, feminine hygiene and adult-incontinence products, and medical hospital sheets, Brechtelsbauer said. The food business primarily is focused on bags for bakery and frozen-food items.
Another film competitor, Tredegar Corp. of Richmond, Va., announced plans in January to exit its back-sheet blown film operations and sell off its LaGrange, Ga., plant. Pliant hopes to capitalize on opportunities in that market, as well as the growth in graphics on food bags, Brechtelsbauer said.
Pliant's new high-speed printing presses, capable of printing digital images, will be sent to the company's plants in McAlester, Okla., and Macedon, N.Y.
``The detail and the artwork on some [frozen-food] bags is unbelievably sophisticated,'' said Brechtelsbauer, who is based at Pliant's production and technical center in Newport News, Va. ``We want to be out in front on this technology. To support the printing piece, you have to deliver digital artwork.''
The company plans to hire an undetermined number of employees, said Lori Roberts, senior vice president of human resources.
Pliant ranked eighth on Plastics News' list of North American film and sheet makers in 2004, with $850 million in relevant 2003 sales. The company has 25 manufacturing and research sites.