Asahi Kasei Plastics North America will be able to solve two problems at once with a new compounding plant in Athens, Ala.
“It's a combination of us needing more capacity and of improving logistics,” Asahi Kasei President John Moyer said in a recent phone interview. “We'll be closer to our customers and will be able to save a lot of money on transporting raw materials and finished products.”
Fowlerville, Mich.-based Asahi Kasei broke ground for the new plant on Sept. 29. The plant will have annual capacity of almost 70 million pounds and will make compounds based on polypropylene, nylon 6/6 and similar materials, primarily for the automotive market. Asahi Kasei is spending more than $30 million on the new site, which is expected to open in early 2016.
The 100,000-square-foot plant will operate two production lines and will employ 35 at first, with that number growing to 100 when the site is at full capacity.
Athens is a city of about 23,000 located halfway between Birmingham, Ala., and Nashville, Tenn. Moyer described the location as being “in the heart of the southeast auto market,” close to plants operated by automakers Toyota, Volkswagen and Nissan, as well as numerous auto parts suppliers.
Asahi Kasei generates about 75 percent of its sales from the auto market, and its 200 million pound-capacity plant in Fowlerville was approaching full capacity. More capacity was needed, Moyer said, especially with North American auto builds expected to approach 17 million this year. Increased use of lightweight plastics in auto parts also is expected to continue.