Film converter Next Generation Films Inc. is enjoying a growth spurt.
The company, based in Lexington, recently launched its latest expansion — a $35 million investment that, when completed next year, will include 10 new multilayer film extrusion lines and a newly acquired, 175,000-square-foot facility.
“We're growing very fast, but we're very focused on what we sell and how we make it,” said Dave Frecka, CEO and owner of the company, during a tour of facility.
The new plant, which will manufacture five-, seven- and nine-layer films, will be the company's sixth.
The blue buildings, which house a recycling facility, research and development lab and warehouse, are all located in the same industrial park in central Ohio. The buildings are visible from the full-length windows in the company's headquarters.
The plants house Next Generation's 30 film lines — mostly finely tuned, customized machines from Windmoeller & Hoelscher Corp. — and are separated by product and quality expectations. For example, one plant manufactures modified-atmosphere packaging for food products while an adjacent building produces industrial packaging.
The campus setup keeps Next Generation efficient and focused, allowing it to offer cost savings, and ensures the company is manufacturing a high-quality product, according to Frecka.
“Most converters do a lot of everything in one place — that's where we're different,” he said. “We have the best equipment money can buy, doing the biggest output we can do.”
Frecka said he is serious about keeping his plants high-tech and up-to-date. They're outfitted with real-time monitoring and data-tracking systems, and the company is constantly investing in new equipment and technology, like a 12-story blown film line, or an energy-saving alternative to conventional screws.
“We don't have an old piece of technology here,” he said. “We don't have old assets; I'll shut them down.”
Next Generation takes the same approach with its materials. The company's R&D lab specializes in analyzing and reverse engineering specialty films.
The lab can take multilayer films down to their molecular level, identify the polymers, analyze the structure and then create a better version — one that meets the same barrier requirements but seals better or has better optics, Frecka said.
Next Generation only deals with specialty films — it doesn't manufacture T-shirt bags or commodity films. Frecka said the firm is a leader in the modified-atmosphere and barrier-packaging markets.
Manufacturing high-end specialty films requires an investment in polymer science that most manufacturers are not willing to make, and that sets Next Generation ahead of the pack, Frecka added.
“That's why we think we're ahead; we're not a ‘me too,' “ he said.
The approach appears to have paid off: Next Generation boasted $245 million in sales this year, a $90 million increase from last year, and jumped from No. 45 to No. 32 in Plastics News' ranking of North American film and sheet manufacturers.
The company has grown exponentially from a single plant in 1996 and has no plans of slowing down now.
When the current expansion is completed and up-to-speed, Frecka plans to add more buildings on the 20 undeveloped acres of the company's campus.
“We're hungry. We're hungry for success. We're hungry and we're going to keep growing,” he said.