Fitchburg, Mass. — The Mar-Lee Cos. Inc. are assuming an expanded role under the Plastibell banner of PSB Industries SA as its U.S. arm is poised to grow by 50 percent in the next five years.
Plastibell sales were $100 million euros ($111.4 million) last year, “but our ambition is to be around 150 million euros ($167 million) in four to five years,” said Emmanuelle Bouvier, CEO of Plastibell, during an Aug. 23 interview at the Fitchburg plant.
Bouvier and Alain Mutschler, Plastibell director of operations for the Americas, said that with Mar-Lee part of the Plastibell operation, the company will have 700 employees and 240 injection molding machines at eight different sites. Plastibell is headquartered in Izermore, France, and has five manufacturing plants there in addition to sites in Poland, Mexico and the U.S. All the sites are able to do their own tool making.
She said that the combined Plastibell entity will have 70,000 square feet of clean room space, as well as another 380,000 square feet of production space. It uses 20,000 tons of plastic per year and makes about 7 billion parts annually.
Mar-Lee was purchased by PSB's Texen unit in 2008, but after PSB acquired Plastibell in March, 2015, it decided that it wanted to build the Plastibell brand. So, now Mar-Lee will be known as Plastibell USA, but will retain the Mar-Lee name as its location.
“This will give us access to capabilities that we didn't have before,” Mutschler said.
The new setup will provide more capital for equipment, he said. The site will be able to do cavity pressure measuring, additive laser sintering, digital printing, in-mold assembly and applications such as surface treatments.
“We also do 3-D printing of prototypes and cavities,” he said, noting that in some cases it can print the tool in the morning and produce a part in the afternoon.
Mar-Lee has grown in sales from $21 million in 2009 to $31 million last year.
It has Engel injection molding presses ranging from 40 to 750 tons and that includes two-shot capability as well.
Mar-Lee serves a medical and consumer goods clientele and that will continue, but they said Plastibell will provide more opportunities to serve a global customer base as well as provide more options to U.S. and Mexico customers.
The Torreon, Mexico, site has had “double-digit growth” in the past few years, according to Bouvier, and they will soon evaluate whether to add another plant. She said that they have a strong aerospace workload in Mexico and noted “I believe that in the U.S. it will develop as well.”
Mutschler said that Mar-Lee has grown on its own, but now will be able to share technology and knowledge throughout the group.
Mar-Lee has two side-by-side facilities in Fitchburg, and a tooling operation in nearby Leominster.
She said that the added size gives certain advantages for its healthcare and industry clients.
“In healthcare, we have six clean rooms and we're building another in France,” said Bouvier.
She said that Mar-Lee, Mexico and Poland each have one clean room, while in France it is adding a fourth.
She said that the new grouping is expected to drive innovation. The company reinvests 4 percent of its revenue in research and development, and 7 percent in new technology. Hence it carries the slogan, “injecteur de solutions.”
Bouvier said that each plant will continue to work locally with their customers, but that the new arrangement will enable them to work with OEMs wanting to build one global footprint.