Officials at PolyOne Corp. believe that big things come in small lots - and they've spent $10 million to prove it.
The company transformed part of a 30-year-old warehouse at PolyOne headquarters in Avon Lake into a state-of-the-art compounding plant for products based on engineering resins, polypropylene and thermoplastic elastomers.
Lots produced at the new plant - which has access to eight loading docks - range from 500-20,000 pounds.
``This site was built for quick changeover,'' said Craig Nikrant, vice president and general manager for PolyOne's North American engineered materials business. ``It's designed to react to the different needs of our customers.''
The company's goal is to be specialized, he added.
The plant occupies 100,000 square feet of the 180,000-square-foot building, which had been used to store PolyOne's PVC-based compounds. Production began in August, with the site formally dedicated in November. The plant now operates four twin- and two single-screw extrusion lines, with room for an additional six lines if needed, said Nikrant, who joined PolyOne in late 2006 after an 18-year career with GE Plastics.
One of the lines is a new Coperion ZSK Megacompounder. Four other lines were transferred from a former PolyOne site in Broadview Heights, Ohio, that closed in 2005. The final line was moved from the firm's engineered materials plant in Dyersburg, Tenn.
The plant also operates several mixers and dryers and a 2,500-square-foot testing lab that includes an injection molding press with 35 tons of clamping force, and a 120-ton version. The operation now employs 42, but could employ as many as 50 by the end of the year.
Several improvements were made to the building to accommodate compound production, including repairs to the roof, reinforcing the floor and installing a new electrical system, according to plant manager Kurt Walker.
Walker said the new plant's flow and layout makes it more conducive to manufacturing than the Broadview Heights facility, which covered less than 50,000 square feet.
PolyOne makes Edgetek, Lubri-Tech, Stat-Tech, Therma-Tech and Gravi-Tech lines, based on engineering resins or PP, at the new plant. The company also produces the OnFlex and Elastamax lines, based on thermoplastic vulcanizates, styrenic block copolymers and other TPEs.
Polycarbonate, nylon, polybutylene terephthalate, polysulfones and liquid-crystal polymers are among the engineering resins used to make compounds at the site. The plant serves end markets such as electrical/electronic, medical and specialty automotive, although no one market has a commanding share of the plant's business.
Nikrant said PolyOne's ability to be ``unbiased'' in its resin selection gives the firm added flexibility.
``Our products aren't resin-specific, they're performance-specific,'' he said. ``We don't have to pigeonhole a resin to make it fit.''
Nikrant and his staff are working to raise the profile of engineering materials at a company that's been better known for its PVC compounds and color compounds and concentrates.
``PVC is the first thing that people think of when they think of PolyOne, but we're working hard to change that,'' Nikrant said. The business has its own sales force and benefits from the access that PolyOne's distribution unit has to a variety of resin choices, he added.
The new plant is one of 10 engineered materials plants operated by PolyOne worldwide. In North America, the Avon Lake site is joined by the Dyersburg site, which focuses on larger-volume orders, and plants in Macedonia, Ohio, and Valleyfield, Quebec, that make non-PVC compounds for the wire and cable market.
Nikrant declined to identify sales goals for the North American unit, but company officials previously said the business generates about $100 million in annual sales. Based on 2006 totals, that would equal about 4 percent of the firm's sales total.
PolyOne posted record sales of $2.6 billion in 2006. The 6-year-old firm - created from the 2000 merger of Geon Co. and M.A. Hanna Co. - is North America's largest compounder on Plastics News' 2006 ranking, with a market share estimated at 12 percent.