Performance Pipe recently boosted its capacity by 30 percent through a three-year, $30 million modernization plan at its nine U.S. facilities and is planning to do more this year.
“Our primary focus is on high density PE pressure pipe,” said Lawyer Jolley, general manager at Performance Pipe, in a telephone interview.
“We're going to continue to build on what we have,” he said, noting that the firm is looking at new technologies and ways to build efficiencies through automation.
Plano, Texas-based Performance Pipe supplies products to the gas distribution, industrial, water and energy markets. It is ranked seventh in the latest Plastics News North American pipe, profile and tubing extruder rankings with an estimated $460 million in related sales.
Jolley said he has seen all the company's markets grow, especially the gas shale energy area.
He said Performance Pipe invested in process controls, automation and extrusion technology, including improvements in process control feedback loops, new dyes and the latest extrusion equipment.
The firm also added state-of-the-art high-speed monitoring. It uses ultrasonic waves to measure pipe wall thickness and diameter and can react instantly if either doesn't meet specifications.
“Some of the facilities were expanded as regard to footprint. We had property that was already part of the sites and we did it to increase line length and to make more efficiency available,” he said.
Jolley did not elaborate on the equipment or site changes, noting only that they are competitive advantages. But he did say the firm had anywhere from 50-70 contractors on its sites making changes throughout the project.
He said one objective was to improve employee safety and the company did that by adding automation and reducing manual labor. This improved efficiencies and it also ended up adding 35-40 permanent jobs.
The company said the changes boosted capacity by 30 percent, the equivalent of adding several new facilities.
“As a business we're not about to shut down and start remaking ourselves, but we were able to perform the changes while producing pipe and we did not have to inconvenience our customers,” he said.
Performance Pipe operates facilities in Reno, Nev.; Brownwood, Texas; Pryor, Okla.; Bloomfield and Fairfield, Iowa; Knox- ville, Tenn.; Williamstown, Ky.; Startex, S.C.; and Hagerstown, Md. It is a division of Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. LP.
Jolley said the company will continue to invest in capital improvements in the coming year, but he was not ready to disclose any new initiatives.