Major packaging converter InterFlex Group has completed a multimillion dollar expansion and consolidated production in the United States.
InterFlex has added two new, 10-color wide-web flexographic printing presses and three new lamination lines in the past year. It has installed the new machinery at plants in the United States and in the United Kingdom and also added more pouch and slitting equipment.
InterFlex invested in the expansion because its production capacity was getting tight due to “more than anticipated growth,” explained InterFlex President and CEO Stephen Doyle in a phone interview.
“In this industry it is tricky to manage capacity, the machines are big-ticket items,” Doyle noted. By keeping ahead of the demand curve, InterFlex added equipment for room to grow. Responding to step-wise jumps in orders can be difficult when there are long lead times for equipment purchases, he added.
In addition to the expansion, InterFlex closed two plants it inherited when it bought Star Packaging Corp. in late 2013. The assets of the plants in Atlanta and Tampa, Fla., have been moved to InterFlex plants in Wisconsin and North Carolina, which when combined with the new purchases and revamped workflow configurations improve production efficiencies. InterFlex's total annual sales jumped to more than $200 million when it bought Star.
Doyle said the plant closures, which took place over a year ending in July 2015, were due to several reasons.
“It did not make sense to run four facilities in the southeast United States,” Doyle said in a phone interview, referring to an existing InterFlex plant and its U.S. headquarters in Wilkesboro, N.C. and the fact that Star had customers around the country. Also, the Star plants were smaller scale than desirable. As well, some of the highly technical work Star did overlapped or complemented InterFlex's technology and it is more efficient to do that work at the InterFlex facilities. InterFlex had room to accommodate the Star assets, especially since the company recently built a new 180,000-square-foot converting and warehouse operation in Merrill, Wis.
InterFlex in the United States now occupies about 360,000 square feet spread among its three plants. The U.K. operations, including the firm's overall head office in Sunderland, England, and in Dalkeith, Scotland, also expanded.
“We are one of few flexible packaging suppliers with the capacity to seamlessly service our customers out of multiple U.S. and U.K. locations,” Doyle claimed.
InterFlex also plans to open a new technical laboratory in Fox Valley, Wis., later this year. Doyle said it will be efficient to locate expensive, high-technology research and development activities in one location rather than spread among production plants. Fox Valley, about two hours' drive from Merrill, is in an area “dense with technical packaging talent,” and that a dedicated lab could help attract researchers to InterFlex. The company already boosted its technical team to 11 researchers in the past few years, stated vice president of marketing and sales Mike Dennis in a news release.
“InterFlex's customers include some of the most sophisticated and demanding consumer packaged goods companies in the world,” added Graham Tilley, U.K. managing director. Key markets include poultry, meat snacks, pet food, baked goods, personal care products and child-resistant packaging.
InterFlex converts purchased film and other substrates to a range of bags and pouches. Its lamination capability includes solvent and solvent-less materials and the ability to do multi-laminations in line. Its printing technology encompasses eight and 10-color presses. It also converts paper/film substrates and wax-coated paper.