Medical technology group Becton, Dickinson and Co. says it will turn a plant in Columbus, Neb., into one of the largest, most sophisticated injection molding operations in the world with a $60 million investment that brings most molding production in-house and increases automation.
The expansion plan, which will unfold through 2021, calls for adding 69,000 square feet to the BD Medical — Pharmaceutical Systems plant, known as BD East, bringing it to about 300,000 square feet; changing production from glass syringes to plastic components; and investing $7 million to retrain employees for the different skills needed.
Built in 2002, the facility currently is one of only four in the world to produce glass syringes, according to BD's website. The company says it will continue to operate the pre-fillable glass syringe production lines for pharmaceutical companies there while the site is transformed into its flagship facility.
"The new facility will be a state-of-the-art plastics molding operation that will centralize a majority of the molding of BD's plastic components in North America, which are currently manufactured by outside suppliers today," Stephen Sichak, executive vice president and chief integrated supply chain officer of BD, said in an email.
Some of the products to be made at the expanding facility include syringe caps, plunger rods and backstops, luer connectors, vials and tubes, Sichak added. The current glass syringe production will be moved to other BD plants over the next four years.
"In addition, there will be some component production currently being performed by suppliers that will transition into Columbus as part of the Plastic Molding Center of Excellence and Plant," Sichak said.
BD employs about 700 people at the expanding plant, 2,500 in Nebraska and about 40,000 worldwide. Based in Franklin Lakes, N.J., the company makes medical supplies, devices, laboratory equipment and diagnostic products for health care institutions, researchers, the pharmaceutical industry and consumers.
The ripple effect of pulling more work in-house from third-party manufacturers isn't known. BD says it is one of the largest users of plastic molded products in the world, with more than 700 billion units manufactured each year. The changeover will give the company more control over quality and production while reducing cost and mitigating supply and legal risks. BD currently buys some raw materials and components from sole suppliers, which exposes the company to supply chain interruptions that can hamper manufacturing and sales, according to a recent SEC filing.
BD owns or leases 255 facilities around the globe. In addition to syringes, the BD East plant partners with the pharmaceutical industry on drug-delivery systems for vaccinations and therapies against diseases, according to its website.
BD does some injection molding at the plant already, according to industry sources, who estimated the plant has about 200 presses. The company is eyeing automated equipment for the expansion.
Some of the 700 positions may be lost to automation but BD reportedly expects no layoffs during the transition. Some salaried employees, such as engineers, are likely to transfer to other BD facilities. The company has about 900 employees at a second Columbus plant, 425 in Holdrege and 575 in Broken Bow.
BD posted sales of $12.5 billion in fiscal 2016. The company also is in the process of acquiring C.R. Bard Inc., a Murray Hill, N.J.-based medical technology company with sales of $3.71 billion.
Construction on the plant expansion is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2018.
"Columbus is home to BD's largest and longest running manufacturing facility in the world, and we are excited to bring cutting-edge technology and production to the area," Sichak said in a news release.
"Columbus will be the centerpiece for our plastic molding manufacturing strategy for North America, supporting multiple business units in the U.S. and around the world."
The project comes on the heels of a September announcement to invest $100 million in additional capacity for insulin syringe production at the Holdrege site.
BD also manufactures a wide variety of medical and surgical products, including pre-filled flush syringes critical to preventing the spread of infection, at is Columbus plant on the west side of the city.