Global silicones supplier Bluestar Silicones USA Corp. has opened a 190,000-square-foot manufacturing plant and warehouse in York, S.C., to replace two much-smaller facilities in Ventura, Calif., and Rock Hill, S.C.
“This is a game changer for us,” said Karen O'Keefe, Bluestar health-care market manager, in an interview at Medical Design & Manufacturing East, held May 22-24 in Philadelphia. “Having everything all in one location improves our logistics, our manufacturing efficiency and our ability to leverage our research and development.”
The new Bluestar building — a former textile plant — also has an additional 36,000 square feet of office and laboratory space. The company is based in East Brunswick, N.J.
“This investment demonstrates our commitment to the North American market,” O'Keefe said. “We expect to be able to provide faster product development. The new plant gives us the room to grow into new markets.”
The $20 million plant will bring all of the company's research and development work under one roof, alongside manufacturing.
“We have been under space constraints for a while now,” said President J. Christopher York. “The floor space wasn't that great” in either plant — about 35,000 square feet apiece, York said. “Expansion of those plants would have been difficult,” he added.
“We are ... building a new foundation here that will create business opportunities and position us for future market share growth,” he said in a telephone interview after the show.
O'Keefe said the new plant in York will be fully operational at the end of June.
“We began the transition from the Rock Hill plant near the end of last year and in April began moving the equipment from Ventura,” she said.
York said the largest segment of the company's business today is silicone release coatings for film and paper products. Bluestar also makes silicones for textile and specialty coatings, and for the personal-care market, and derives 15 percent of its sales from health-care and medical markets.
For the health-care and medical markets, Bluestar makes silicones for soft-skin adhesives, prosthetic devices and orthotic foot-care comfort inserts; silicone adhesive gels; heat-cured rubber compounds for catheters and tubing; fluids and emulsions for coatings; fluids and elastomers for drug delivery; and putties for dental impressions.
“The new plant has clean rooms with filtration systems vs. just a clean room manufacturing environment,” O'Keefe said.
York said he expects the new plant to help boost growth in all of Bluestar's markets. The plant will manufacture all of the company's products and it will be adding processing equipment, he said, without elaborating.
Bluestar expects to create 60 new jobs during the next two years, boosting its workforce, which currently numbers around 100 people.
Employees from the Rock Hill site, about 14 miles from York, have relocated, O'Keefe said. “A good portion” of the Venture employees also have decided to relocate, she said.
Globally, Bluestar Silicones France SAS is a $650 million company based in Lyon, France. The company was created in 2007 when China National Bluestar Corp. acquired Rhodia Silicones.