Packaging thermoformer Prent Corp. is building a plant in Holbaek, Denmark, and is expanding its plant in Shanghai. Both projects are scheduled to be finished within nine months.
The new plant will be the company's sixth, its first in Europe and its fourth outside the continental U.S. It is scheduled to be finished in the fourth quarter of this year, according to officials of the Janesville, Wis., company.
Like Prent's other thermoforming packaging plants, the Denmark plant will have a Class 100,000 clean room and the company's own custom-built thermoforming equipment with robotics.
More than 50 percent of the firm's estimated $130 million in sales comes from medical packaging, followed by electronics packaging. Prent designs and manufactures blister packs, pressure formed trays and clamshells.
The company did not disclose the extent of the expansion of its 4-year-old plant in China, only saying that it should be completed by the beginning of 2010. We have outgrown our space in China, said President and CEO Joseph Pregont in an April 14 telephone interview.
The Europe expansion was driven by market conditions, he said.
We are reacting to customer demand and going where our customers want us to be, said Pregont, who has run the family-owned business since 1984. We needed a presence in Europe to be a global supplier for our customers, particularly European medical-device manufacturers.
Prent currently serves Europe from its plants in China; Johor, Malaysia; Flagstaff, Ariz., and Janesville. Pregont said the company's plants range in size from 30,000-200,000 square feet. The largest is in Janesville, and more than half of the company's capacity is in the U.S.
The Denmark plant will be a green-field plant with all-new equipment, Pregont said. We will start small. We have some commitments. But we don't have a big chunk of business. We will start with a few machines. We have room to grow to as big as the demand gets.
Pregont said the Denmark plant will be a little bit bigger than the company's 30,000-square-foot facility in Yauco, Puerto Rico, which opened in 2006 and serves the Virgin Islands and Central America. That plant derives 70-80 percent of its sales from medical packaging.
Like its other global expansions in Malaysia, China and Puerto Rico, Pregont said the company will build its European market through organic growth from existing and new customers.
We haven't purchased any companies, so everything we do is developed through organic growth, he said. We have a very defined effort when we open new facilities. We start small with 25-30 people and create a new market area.
In Malaysia, for example, Prent has expanded production space 50 percent, increased employment fivefold and improved sales by 3,000 percent since the plant opened in 1998.
The new Denmark plant and the China expansion come on the heels of several others in the past two years. In 2007, Prent completed a remodeling in Flagstaff that made the facility larger, expanded the Class 100,000 clean room, and increased production volume. That same year, Prent opened its machine-building facility in Janesville and shifted all of its equipment-building to that site.
In addition, the company expanded its secondary operations in 2007 to add custom, multistep, automated processes such as radio-frequency and sonic sealing; Tyvek and lid-stock seating; match metal part trimming; multipart assembly and part decorating, pad printing and hot stamping.
Although the medical-device industry has not been affected as much as other sectors of manufacturing, Pregont said there has been pressure from device manufacturers, pharmaceutical firms and hospitals to cut costs.
There are real pressures, he said. We have to continue to come up with improvements on processes and with alternative materials to take costs out of the products we sell.
Pregont said the company's proprietary technology and the fact that it builds its own thermoforming equipment are strategic advantages.
Our technology and our equipment help us control our own destiny, Pregont said. We build all of our thermoforming equipment, and all of our equipment is interchangeable, so we can move production and equipment from plant to plant.
Prent employs more than 1,000 employees worldwide, roughly half of them in Janesville, and 300 in Malaysia.