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After hitting a trough two years ago, Westlake Plastics (Lenni, PA) is reinvesting in its processing equipment and expanding product capabilities under new ownership, CEO Randy Altland said in an interview at MD&M East in Philadelphia.

June 25, 2013

10 Min Read
Westlake Plastics retires debt, launches turnaround

After hitting a trough two years ago, Westlake Plastics (Lenni, PA) is reinvesting in its processing equipment and expanding product capabilities under new ownership, CEO Randy Altland said in an interview at MD&M East in Philadelphia.

A manufacturer of extruded and compression-molded high performance thermoplastic products for the medical, industrial, semiconductor, military and aerospace markets, Westlake Plastics was acquired May 1 by Actimed of France for $6.5 million. Actimed’s MTD subsidiary had been Westlake Plastics’ exclusive European distributor for 30 years. Actimed is the majority owner.

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CEO Randy Altland

MTD will change its name to Westlake Plastics Europe under the new ownership. The Westlake family had owned the company for 61 years.

"We have been able to retire all of our previous debt and have already begun a program to upgrade our existing production lines and to expand our product capabilities," said Altland, who became CEO two years ago after a career in the compounding and resins' businesses. Production investments include new process controls, takeoff equipment, and dies.

One of the major product line extensions will be compression molding of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene shapes for orthopedic applications, such as knee and hip replacements. Westlake currently produces Lennite implant grade UHMWPE through a ram extrusion process. "Some customers prefer the shapes produced through the ram extrusion process, and some prefer them to be compression molded," Altland said. The material is the same, but the molecular orientation is different.

Westlake Plastics operates 36 extrusion lines in Lenni, PA and four large compression molding presses and associated equipment in Mayfield, PA. The equipment is currently operating below capacity, but Altland projects a sales increase of 20% to 25% this year as the company gets wind back in its sails. Revenues are in the $15 million to $20 million range, less than half what they were about 15 years ago.

Altland is confident the company can rebound because of its well known brand names, long years of service, improvement in cost of goods sold, product extensions, and the support of Actimed. In one example, Westlake Plastics will make its first appearance this year in the giant German K Fair in Düsseldorf.

Michael Kirschnick, a 30-year industry veteran with experience at Wittmann Battenfeld, Inc. and Husky Injection Molding Systems, recently joined the company as National Sales Manager.

“We’ve been in a reengineering effort the past two years, and now the business has the resources it needs to execute on critical manufacturing and invest in human resources,” he said. “We have already reinforced our management team with additional customer-focused plastics industry veterans.”

Westlake Plastics was a pioneer in the development of the stock shapes business for medical plastics. It also operates a small specialty high-performance films business. Close to 85% of the company's sales go into distribution channels, giving it little visibility into final applications. Major competitors include Quadrant, Ensinger, and Röchling, which has made a significant penetration in the United States in recent years.

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