Blue Bell, Pa.-based sheet extruder maker Welex Inc. is moving to a new factory in Greenville, N.C., set to open in mid-February.
Welex was founded in 1967 in King of Prussia, Pa., and relocated two years later to Blue Bell, where the factory was built on an old farm, President Frank Nissel said. Welex has added on to the building several times over the years. But, Nissel said, because of the layout, the firm still is not able to set up complete extrusion lines - from the extruder through the sheet takeoff equipment.
``The reason we're moving is the building is no longer efficiently suitable for what we want to do. The aisles are too narrow, and you can't take a building and stretch it that way,'' he said. ``We found a very nice building in North Carolina, which has bigger bays than we have here. So as a result, we will be able to assemble full sheet lines, which are very long.''
Both buildings are about the same size - 75,000 square feet. But the Greenville site has three 50-foot-wide assembly bays; bays in Pennsylvania are 40 feet wide.
That 10 feet makes a big difference, according to Nissel. ``We'll be able to almost double our capacity without adding much on to our building size,'' he said.
Key management and engineering will remain in Blue Bell, a Philadelphia suburb. And 80-year-old Frank Nissel, well-known in machinery and packaging circles, said he has no plans to retire.
``I'm a working president and CEO. I'm not an absentee executive,'' he said.
Greenville will be equipped with webcams and equipment for live teleconferencing to link the Blue Bell corporate offices. Also, customers will be able to see their machines being built by getting online and using a special access code.
Nissel said Welex will lay off about 50 employees in Blue Bell. Executives told employees about a year ago the company was thinking about relocating its plant. The machinery maker is providing a severance package.
The North Carolina plant probably will end up employing the same number of people. Welex does final assembly of the sheet lines, using parts machined by outside suppliers.
``We're not moving to China, like some of my competitors. I'm keeping the jobs in America. I'm very proud of being an American company and to be building my machines in America. I think that's a big plus,'' Nissel said.
Welex purchased the 5-year-old Greenville plant, which was built for a powder coating company that has since closed down.
Welex equipment makes PET, polypropylene and polystyrene sheet for packaging, like fast-food drink cups, lids and clear clamshells. PET packaging is ``exploding'' around the world, Nissel said. Welex, which does not disclose sales, has customers in more than 70 countries. The firm is owned by the Hendrickson family.