Spartech Corp.'s newest venture is a 90,000-square-foot technology center that puts several of the Clayton, Mo.-based firm's capabilities under one roof.
The $6 million facility in Maryland Heights, Mo., which opened in December, is much larger than previous research facilities, President Vicki Holt said in a July 26 telephone interview. The company planned a grand opening event for the center July 28.
“It's more than just a building. It's about creating a hub for us to have collaboration between our suppliers, our customers and ourselves to drive sustainable, innovative solutions,” she said.
The facility, which makes extensive use of both sunlight and energy-efficient electrical lighting, contains areas where customers and Spartech's scientists, technical and marketing experts, design engineers and commercial development managers can develop new products quickly and at lower cost, she said.
The facility initially will employ 25, with room for 60 workers, and contains equipment for compounding and characterization of materials, five full-scale extrusion lines with prototyping capability for thin- and thick-gauge films, and three thermoforming lines.
“Up until this point, these capabilities have been part of Spartech, scattered across the United States in different manufacturing centers; now we're bringing it all under one roof,” Holt said.
The newest capabilities that the tech center brings to the fore are Spartech's IQ PKG computer-assisted design and prototyping center for new packaging, and the ability to conduct life-cycle analyses on new products and applications.
“Today only 7 percent of plastic is recycled, compared to 23 percent of the glass, 34 percent of the metal and 55 percent of the paper,” Holt said. “Part of our commitment to sustainability is to find different ways that we can create closed loops to bring materials back in and recycle them and work with our suppliers, our customers, other channel partners — even retailers — to be able to improve the amount of recycle that we incorporate into finished products for our customers.”
In the new building, that effort to boost plastics recycling extends to the inclusion of plastic recycling bins in the lunchroom, she said. Spartech has an agreement with its trash collector to maintain the separation of materials as done at the tech center.
Holt has led Spartech — a major producer of plastic sheet and a maker of color compounds and concentrates — since September. She is the firm's fourth president and CEO in the past seven years.
On June 1, Holt also took over the responsibilities of interim senior vice president of Spartech's sheet business. She said now is a time of transformation for the company, with a new focus on sustainability.
“The next decade is a tremendous opportunity for [plastics] as an industry to bring sustainability into our processes and the products that we produce, in a way that not only delivers value to the customers and consumers, but we deliver more-profitable models within the industry itself. It will be good for our employees, it will be good for our shareholders and it will be good for our communities,” she said.
For the second quarter of 2011, Spartech reported profit of $2.6 million on sales of $282.6 million, compared to profit of $4.5 million on sales of $268.5 million for the year-ago period.
For the six months ended April 30, Spartech reported profit of $3.7 million on sales of $517.3 million, compared to profit of $9.2 million on sales of $493.7 million for the comparable period in 2010.
In a recent Plastics News ranking, Spartech placed as North America's 10th-largest film and sheet maker, with sales of about $637 million for its fiscal year ended Oct. 31, 2009. The firm also is one of North America's 30 largest producers of compounds and color concentrates.