Starlim North America Corp. is on pace to complete the first phase of a multi-year expansion project at its liquid silicone rubber molding factory in London, Ontario, by the end of this summer.
The subsidiary of Austria's Starlim Sterner Group broke ground on the $20 million project in September 2016 as part of a five- to seven-year plan to boost capacity to match the growth projected in the company's business plan.
"Our company is privately held and the owner has a really long-term horizon in terms of planning," said John Timmerman, Starlim North America vice president of sales and marketing. "The current construction is based on five to seven years, but we're actually already planned out construction-wise for an additional five years should that be necessary. We're planned out to 2025 in terms of capacity and sales."
Starlim opened the 65,000-square-foot London facility in 2004 with just five injection molding machines, and the firm said it has continuously grown production capabilities there, bringing the plant to maximum capacity and creating the need for the expansion.
This first step in the project will add 180,000 square feet to the factory and more than triple production capacity, according to the firm.
Included in the expansion is a two-story office tower, three additional production bays, an expanded post-curing room, and ISO 7 and ISO 8 clean rooms. Starlim will add 40 staff members to the location, though Timmerman wouldn't disclose what that will make the site's total employment.
He said some sections of the expansion, including the offices, will open this winter, while the production area will be completed last.
"Basically we're building around the whole facility, and it was done in phases," Timmerman said. "We have construction on three of the four sides, so it wraps around the existing building without interfering with production or shipping. It's a very intricate plan to make all that work, and we won't have any interruptions when we connect the construction site to the existing production facility because it's all pre-engineered."
The production area is broken into bays, each with a number of LIM presses — all supplied by Engel — and LSR material drums and in-house designed Sterner mixing and dosing equipment located in the basement level below the molding floor, a design the company said keeps a clear floor area and a small footprint for each machine.
The London plant has two existing bays that are filled to capacity, with the three new bays not being filled all at once. "There will be machines coming into the first new bay as soon as it's finished, and over the years we'll be gradually filling the rest," the Starlim North America VP said.
It's a bit unusual to add enough space to be able to fill potential needs for such a long time period, according to Timmerman. "Because we're in a position to do long-term planning, it's lower cost overall as long as you have a good, solid business plan."
All manufacturing in London is liquid injection molding of LSR components, with half of business going into the life sciences market, 30 percent into automotive and 20 percent into industrial applications, he said. The London factory has a bit more life sciences business — medical, pharmaceutical and health care — than its counterpart facility in Austria because the North American market still has 60-70 percent of the world's medical device market.
"Because we're focused on high volume, we tend to mirror the market that we're in regionally," Timmerman said.
Starlim's medical goods are all disposable, with much of the output going into IV-sets, dialysis equipment, goods used to treat diabetes and many others. Timmerman said the two main automotive areas are connector seals and ignition components, along with a number of other smaller parts.
The Ontario facility mainly supplies North America and Asia-based customers.