DS Smith plc is expanding operations in the United States on two fronts, including a new rigid plastic packaging location near Chicago and expansion of an injection molding location in Minnesota.
The London-based company, through its DS Smith Plastics division, currently is installing equipment and readying a new facility in Romeoville, Ill., to produce rigid polypropylene sheets for single-use and reusable packaging as well as sleeves used for shipping. The sheets also can be used for graphics.
"DS Smith has developed a very successful business model in Europe producing these types of panels and containers," said John McCurdy, vice president of commercial development for the Extruded Products North America unit of DS Smith Plastics.
While DS Smith already has other plastics-related operations in the United States, this is the first sheet plant for the firm in the country. The location in the upper Midwest will allow the facility to serve the entire country as well as Canada and Mexico, McCurdy said.
The company is importing technology developed and honed over the years at its European sheet plants to make what McCurdy calls "bubble-structure sheets." These sheets feature an inner core with a circular pattern instead of the more traditional hexagonal approach.
"You end up with a much more structural sheet than you would with typical corrugated plastic," he said.
"It makes it more of a panel that can be used in a wider variety of industrial applications and, in particular, areas of focus are bulk reusable containers where we may be able to go out and compete against a molded plastic container at a lower cost point," he said.
The new plant will employ an estimated 50 to 60 full-time workers, McCurdy said, as well as part-time staff. The site is being located in a previously unoccupied building and will include about 75,000 square feet of space.
"I think the thing that differentiates us is, No. 1, we have over a decade's worth of experience [in other markets]," McCurdy said. "Secondarily, we've got great relationships with a wide variety of European customers who are looking at establishing operations here in North America. It's a natural transition to continue to build on those types of relationships.
"DS Smith is a global company. We are focused on leveraging capabilities that have been developed," McCurdy said.
While the company did not reveal a cost of the new Romeoville location, DS Smith Plastics did indicate it will spend $4 million to expand its Worldwide Dispensers injection molding location in Lester Prairie, Minn.
The work will increase space to more than 80,000 square feet and include a 2,000-square-foot product development laboratory. This project also will have what the company's calls "high precision injection molding and assembly assets."
"We are committed to giving our customers the best possible service, and in order to do so, it is crucial that we are equipped with the right capacity and the latest technology," said Kevin Grogan, CEO of the Flexible Packaging unit of DS Smith Plastics.
The Minnesota project is expected to be completed in the spring, and operations in Romeoville should be fully operational by early next year.
The Plastics division focuses on three areas: flexible packaging and dispensing solutions, rigid packaging and foam products.
The company's Rigid Packaging Extruded Products business already has six other locations in France, Spain, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.
DS Smith plc has operations in 36 countries and employs 26,000 workers. That includes 27 plastics-related locations in 13 countries.