Packaging thermoformer Prent Corp. has moved into a new plant in Shanghai that more than doubles its capacity in China and increases the number of its Class 8 clean rooms there from one to three.
The company also will open its new plant in Holbaek, Denmark, on Jan. 4. The 30,000-square-foot green-field plant is the company's first in Europe and has a Class 8 clean room.
Both plants incorporate state-of-the-art robotics. The previously announced expansions were completed as scheduled, despite the struggling economic conditions globally.
We are relatively small and can be nimble and do what we need to do to get things done, said Joseph Pregont, president and CEO of the privately owned, Janesville, Wis.-based company. That is one of the beauties of being a private company.
Prent has estimated annual sales of more than $130 million.
Pregont said the company has experienced double-digit growth in China since it entered the market five years ago, which has allowed it to expand its workforce to more than 350.
We have experienced fantastic growth. We just outgrew the old plant, Pregont said in a Dec. 10 telephone interview. We expect to keep seeing double-digit growth for the next five years, which would double the company's sales in China.
The plant in China largely serves that country's domestic market in three key packaging areas: medical, consumer electronics and high-end markets that require precision thermoforming. Prent designs and manufactures blister packs, pressure formed trays and clamshells.
The fastest-growing segment of its business in China will be medical, which accounts for more than 50 percent of the company's sales globally.
We expect [medical] sales in the next five years to double at the minimum, as more global medical-device manufacturers move into China, said B.J. Nelson, president of Prent Asia.
In addition, Nelson said Prent China anticipates modest yearly growth from its already-substantial consumer electronics business.
The economic downturn in the past year has not affected the demand in China for medical and consumer electronics packaging, Nelson said. We expect the Chinese economy will continue to perform very well. In the next 10 years, we believe China will experience a significantly higher growth rate than North America or Europe.
Pregont said the company has been able to increase its amount of equipment in China as a result of the expansion. We have added capacity, added more equipment and created multiple clean rooms.
Prent custom builds its own thermoforming equipment and designs all of its facilities to be identical so it can move production and equipment from plant to plant.
Four of the company's six plants are outside the U.S., but more than half of its capacity is in the U.S.
The Denmark plant, which will supply the European market, will start with 20-25 workers, but employment is expected to surpass 100 within five years.
The primary focus of the Denmark plant will be medical-device packaging, although it will also serve other markets, said Pregont, adding that the plant will have all new equipment.
We have a number of existing European customers who have been awaiting its opening, he said.
The plant will have design, quality assurance and manufacturing capabilities. As demand grows, it will add tool engineering, tool building and secondary operations, said Peter Bay, managing director of Prent Denmark.
We will start slow and build our business, he said. If I look out five years from now, Prent will be one of the main players in the European packaging market.
Pregont said Prent is likely to spend 2010 focusing on its two new plants and then will see where it needs to expand. The company employs more than 1,000 worldwide.
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