Even though its first U.S. packaging plant is running only a few machines, Phoenix Packaging Operations LLC a subsidiary of privately owned Grupo Phoenix in Bogota, Colombia is doubling the size of its operations in Dublin.
We are growing faster than we thought. We have to expand immediately, said Jaime Lederman, CEO of Phoenix Packaging, during an April 12 tour of the $25 million, 100,000-square-foot plant, which just had its official grand opening March 30.
Originally Phoenix Packaging had planned to use 50,000 square feet for production of rigid thermoformed packaging and 50,000 square feet for warehouse space. But Lederman said it has bids out for a $17.5 million, 120,000-square-foot expansion, and will use all of the current facility for manufacturing while the new space will be used for warehousing.
He said construction of the adjoining facility will take roughly seven months.
Currently, Phoenix is extruding seven-layer film used to make single-serve coffee brewing cups for Waterbury, Vt.-based Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. Phoenix makes the seven-layer barrier cups on an Illig 75K thermoforming machine with 91 cavities.
The firm also operates a shrink-sleeve line that applies labels to Chobani polypropylene yogurt cups for Agro-Farma Inc. Until last week, Phoenix used PP cups made in Colombia, but said that by this week it would begin making the cups in Dublin on a monolayer container line.
Those four machines represent just the initial part of the first phase of operations, which began on a limited basis last October.
We will be operating eight machines by the end of July, including two Polytype offset printers made in Switzerland, and 18 machines by the end of the year as the company completes phase one of the buildup of its packaging operations in the U.S., he said.
The plant currently employs 75 in Dublin, but the workforce will increase to 150 by the end of July and to 240 by year's end, he said. The expansion should add another 100 employees.
Currently, all of the production in the Dublin plant is used to make dairy cups and containers for the U.S., Canadian and Mexican markets. But Lederman didn't exclude the possibility that some of the plant's production could be exported to additional markets at a later date.
He also said the company plans, in the near future, to be making some packaging products out of polylactic acid at the Dublin facility. He declined to specify the type of product, saying only that it would be a non-dairy application.
We do PLA globally, but do not do PLA here yet, he said.
One possibility would be single-serve PLA soft drink cups such as the ones the company makes in Colombia for a number of customers, including Colombia's largest airline, Avianca SA.
Most of the Dublin plants' initial customers have operations in Tennessee, including Green Mountain. But Lederman said Phoenix's customer base has expanded rapidly. He would not yet discuss most of the new customers, except that Phoenix would be making yogurt cups for a large Colombian yogurt manufacturer that was opening up a location in Batavia, N.Y.
Grupo Phoenix is a leading maker of injection molded packaging, thermoformed products, foil lidding and extruded barrier packaging. It has 10 locations in Latin America and the U.S., employs more than 4,000 globally, sells products to 32 countries and had 2009 sales of more than $350 million. It also makes packaging for desserts and sauces.