United Solutions Corp., formerly United Plastics Corp., plans to begin operating a 150,000-square-foot injection and blow molding facility July 17 in Gilbert, Ariz.
The Leominster, Mass.-based housewares company also has expanded its other two factories, in Leominster and Sardis, Miss.
``It completes our long-term distribution strategy,'' said Greg Pojani, vice president of operations, in a June 27 telephone interview. ``The West Coast is growing tremendously. The retailers are growing as well.''
The company changed its name to United Solutions in February, Pojani said.
``We wanted to project to our customers that we bring more than plastics to the table,'' he said. The firm's products include containers and totes made of fabric.
The company does blow molding and injection molding at all three sites. Its Gilbert site will employ 100. Pojani said the facility will house 15-30 injection presses and three to six blow molding machines, which it uses to make trash cans.
Pojani said consolidation in the housewares industry will continue, and United plans to be one of those left standing.
``We obviously plan to continue to be a survivor,'' he said.
``For the future in housewares, there are only two to three players that can last that transition period.''
The North American housewares market is being challenged by imports, changes in raw materials pricing and a general shift as injection molders with domestically based operations redefine how they do business.
The industry has seen the shift largely led by the example of Newell Rubbermaid Inc. The Sandy Springs, Ga., housewares major closed several plants during 2005, realigning its Greenville, Texas, molding site, in particular, to handle larger-tonnage presses for products that are more difficult for Asian competitors to ship to the United States. Just two weeks ago, the firm announced plans to shut down a blow molding site in Centerville, Iowa.
Other competitors realigned via bankruptcy. Among them were Aero Plastics Inc. of Leominster and Cornerstone Products Inc. of Durant, Okla., which ended up liquidating after filing for Chapter 11. Laich Industries Corp. of Brook Park, Ohio, filed for Chapter 11 protection as well.
United is owned by Ed Zephyr. The firm's customers include Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target, Home Depot, Lowe's and Sears.
Pojani said resin pricing continues to play a major role in the health of the housewares industry, and United has been able to manage the volatile environment while partnering with customers. On the procurement side, it has been able to work with large resin manufacturing distributors to mitigate the impact.
``We just didn't throw out price increases,'' he said. ``We developed strategies with each of our customers. Our customers understand that resin prices changed dramatically.''