The new Independent Pipe Products Inc. plant in Abbeville, S.C. still being renovated and expanded is a microcosm of the ever-evolving plastics industry, and a testament to innovative manufacturing, even while producing simple shapes.
The longtime high density polyethylene fittings fabricator is growing its pipe-extrusion business and using what company officials believe is the latest and greatest in tooling, extrusion and auxiliary equipment technology to carve out its piece of the pie in the sector.
Project manager Jim Copeland came out of retirement to oversee the formation of Dallas-based Independent Pipe's East Coast operation.
The centerpiece of the new 52,000-square-foot plant, which includes a 12,000-square-foot adjacent building currently under construction, will be a new 65-inch American Maplan extrusion line.
Company officials said that line will give Independent the immediate ability to competitively bid on projects in the large-diameter markets with existing HDPE pipe leaders Performance Pipe, JM Eagle and PolyPipe.
The company is also installing three KraussMaffei extrusion lines capable of extruding pipe diameters up to 24 inches, Cope- land said in a Nov. 5 telephone interview.
[KraussMaffei's] tooling technology is further advanced than anything we have, he said.
For auxiliary equipment, the company turned to two Canadian suppliers.
Hamilton Avtec is supplying the materials-handling equipment upstream.
Lachine, Quebec-based Custom Downstream Systems Inc. is providing the downstream equipment, including vacuum tanks, saws, and haul offs.
Sales Vice President Antonio Pecora said CDS focuses primarily on the building and construction market, but also makes products for the automotive and medical-parts manufacturing end markets.
Company officials said CDS is the largest downstream equipment manufacturer in North America, and has arrived there through product innovation.
We build our equipment a little bit different, said Bernadette Marti, CDS sales accounts manager. We use a wider cleat. There's a little more contact on the pipe surface, and that allows us to have the same pulling force using less of a footprint.
People are looking to do more with less, he said.
Copeland said the new equipment is far more advanced than anything he has seen.
Independent Pipe is investing a minimum of $7 million on the project and will start with 25 employees.
The company now operates out of a 110-employee, 275,000-square-foot plant purchased in 2004, when the company moved into HDPE pipe extrusion after acquiring the PE pipe division of Houston-based North American Pipe Co.
North American Pipe's PE business then was extruding about 24 million pounds of throughput on five lines.
Since the acquisition, Independent Pipe said it has grown that business to about 40 million pounds annually on nine extrusion lines.
The company makes smooth-wall pressure pipe used to serve end markets including natural gas delivery, mining, sanitary sewers, and potable water transfer.
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