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Recycling: MBA partners with British firm for fourth resin reclaim site

MBA PolymersMBA Polymers and European Metal Recycling Limited (EMR) have chosen a shuttered glass production site in Worksop, Nottingshamshire, U.K. for a new 80,000 tons/yr plastic processing joint venture to be called MBA Polymers UK. The company will take shredder residue from EMR’s U.K. operations and apply MBA’s proprietary process to recover, separate, and purify plastics from that waste stream, which can then be sold for use in new products.

In a release, David Ireland, EMR’s director of technical services, said the site was chosen for logistical reasons and that operations should begin in early 2010. The companies estimate the plant will generate in 100 new jobs. MBA Polymers UK received a Grant for Business Investment (GBI) award of £1 million from the East Midlands Development Agency, using the monies to purchase the site and equipment.

EMR (Warrington, England) processes more than 10 million tons of waste material a year from consumers, industry, and demolition, producing more than 100 grades of recycled products. MBA Polymers operates plants in the U.S., China, and Europe, supplying automotive, appliance, and electronics OEMs with reclaimed plastics. In Europe, its MBA Polymers Austria Kunststoffverarbeitung GmbH (Kematen) was founded in November of 2004 as a JV between MBA Polymers Austria’s Müller-Guttenbrunn Group. The 20,000-sq-m site has annual capacity of 40,000 tons. In China, Guangzhou GISE-MBA New Plastics Technology Co. Ltd. was founded in January 2004, as a partnership between Guangzhou Iron & Steel Enterprises Group Co. Ltd. and MBA, with the 20,000-sq-m plant there offering an annual processing capacity of 40,000 tons.—[email protected]

Infrastructure investments would create jobs in manufacturing, plastics

A new study posits that 15,000 glass, rubber, and plastics jobs could be created by increased spending on infrastructure. The study, commissioned to a team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), broadly states that 18,000 jobs would be produced for every $1 billion in new infrastructure spending on the nation’s transportation, energy, water systems, and public schools. The study forecasts that at least 2.6 million new jobs would result from $148 billion in increased spending, including $93 billion in public investment.

The construction and service industries would experience the vast majority of job creation, but AAM feels manufacturing could benefit as well with an increase of 252,000 jobs nationally. The study also states that tax cuts, which some have positioned as a better means to stimulate the economy, would only create 14,000 jobs per $1 billion in spending. Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, working closely with the new president, have proposed an $825 billion stimulus package, including $358 billion for new infrastructure projects.—[email protected] 

PLA grade targets styrenics applications

This material was designed specifically for the consumer goods segments such as electronics, cosmetics, housewares, toys and custom molding. According to the supplier and compared to its established injection molding grade, the new grade improves productivity via shorter molding cycles, and it can be processed using the same mold and plasticizing screw as used with GPPS, SAN, HIPS and ABS. NatureWorks also anticipates some injection molders will see potential for down gauging in some applications as well as possible energy savings.

Targeted are semi-durable applications that are either clear or opaque; are currently molded in GPPS, HIPS, SAN, ABS or PET; and require impact resistance similar to medium impact polystyrene.[email protected]

NatureWorks LLC; Minnetonka, MN, U.S.A.; www.natureworksllc.com


Macchi invests in facility, brings new kit to Milan show

With equipment sales down, many plastics processing machinery manufacturers have taken a defensive posture, with steps such as long holiday furloughs, employee layoffs and more the rule. Among those holding true to the maxim, “The best defense is a good offense,” is Italian blown and cast film extrusion line manufacturer Macchi SpA, where officials say a significant extension to its testing and machining capacity is underway. “We are sending a clear message to the film extrusion world that, even in difficult times like these, we are investing for the future. Over the last five years, our sales have doubled. Business-wise, the company had an excellent 2008 and prospects for the coming months are still good,” stated Luigi Macchi, the company’s owner and president.

The company’s positive news also is helping it work through the loss last year of Luigi Macchi’s son, Alessandro, who had been running the company but was murdered in a domestic dispute (as reported by MPW here). “The loss of my son Alessandro last year dealt me and my family an enormous blow. But the best way to treasure his memory is to ensure the continuing success of the company that he helped build. And that is what we are doing now with this important investment,” says Luigi Macchi.

Construction work adding an extra 5000 m2 of extra floor space at the company's headquarters in Venegono Inferiore began last summer and should be complete by the end of the first quarter of this year. The expansion will allow the company to add another six bays for assembly and testing of equipment immediately prior to shipment. According to the company, it currently has space for up to 10 lines at various stages of final assembly, but it has on occasion found itself cramped for space as its output currently is running at around 70 lines a year. Additionally, reports Macchi, demand increasingly is for more complex equipment, such as 7-layer film extrusion lines, which takes more time to manufacture and test.

Macchi's machining area will also be expanded, with the company planning to install new machining centers in the coming months. Space for the company's technical offices is being extended as well.

“The new space will not only enable us to expand our capacity,” says Luigi Macchi. “It will also help us improve working conditions for our operatives and further ensure the high quality of our products.”

During the triennial Plast trade show in Milan next month (March 24-28), Macchi intends to highlight an off-the-shelf solution to efficiently recover processing waste. The company (stand 15C-D14/19) is featuring its Recotrim, a portable extruder that takes edge trim directly from a film line and converts it into granules that can be fed straight back into a main extruder. It can also reprocess more substantial waste from out-of-spec rolls. Macchi says Recotrim overcomes problems associated with edge trim recovery, such as how to handle material that has picked up a static charge, as well as variations in the amount of trim needed to be recovered.

The new unit is based around a short co-rotating twin-screw extruder running at low speed and low temperature to ensure minimal material degradation. It uses 80mm screws, and heat is applied by ceramic elements grouped in two zones. Output is about 40kg/hr. Two types of feeder can be used on the Recotrim hopper. If the extrusion line winder uses a venturi to suck off the edge trim, it can be fitted with a special hopper that separates trim from air. Alternatively, a nip roll can be mounted on top of the hopper to maintain tension. Macchi calculates that a processor using a Recotrim next to a film extrusion line processing 300-400 tonnes/yr can see savings from €20,000/yr to €65,000/yr. [email protected]; [email protected]

Is help on the way?

This month sees the inauguration of Barack Obama, who takes the helm at a critical moment and faces a daunting set of challenges. As the global economic outlook continues to sour, what does the future hold for American processors as a new leader charts a new course?

Time will tell, obviously, but speculation won’t wait, largely because the stakes are so high, and President-elect Obama has virtually everyone urging him to act before he even takes office. So MPW took the opportunity to interview investment banking expert Mark Agosto for his thoughts on the new administration and the impact of the financial industry’s problems on the manufacturing world.Mark Agosto

MPW: The state of the U.S. economy seems precarious at best, likewise for many of its trading partners. How much can a new administration do to change a) the short-term situation, and b) longer-term prospects for American manufacturers? Where do you think processors should be hoping to see positive signs? What steps do you think U.S. manufacturing is looking for?

Agosto: It appears that the new administration is doing everything possible in the near term to kick-start the economy. Providing bailout funds to banks and potentially now the American automotive manufactures (Ed.: as we went to print, the automotive bailout was still being debated) is allowing both groups to reorganize in the best possible way. Banks have access to capital again and we should see the lending spigot open up in the first quarter of 2009. I am a little more worried for the longer term, as President Obama will be increasing the capital gains and dividend rates as well as corporate tax rates, while increasing spending and implementing more stringent regulatory policies. Our best path to greener pastures is through innovation.

Yes, processors need to lower their cost structure, but we need to be cognizant of the fact that the U.S. is simply not always going to be the low-cost producer. The new administration needs to keep credit loose and limit any new harsh legislation policies to create opportunities for American business to continue to innovate, which will create more jobs and ultimately stimulate growth.

Processors—now more than ever—need to think globally with regards to their businesses, customers, suppliers, locations, and more. The bright spots in the economy will probably be in aerospace and defense, energy and healthcare, particularly with composites. I don't think most U.S. manufacturers are looking for a handout from the government. I think they would be happy with returning to times of normalcy and stability that we just haven't seen in awhile. We thrive on competition as long as there is a fair playing field and we all play by the same rules.

MPW: What’s happening in terms of capital flow to the processing sector? Can processors get the money they need to borrow? What role does manufacturer financing play overall in capital investment by processors? Will it increase, decrease in the months ahead?

Agosto: Well, almost nobody is getting the capital they want right now except for the banks, who are in turn supposed to lend it out to American businesses and consumers. Certain strides have been made, but just not as fast or robust as I think we would like to see.

Many are expecting the floodgates to open this month. I am just not so sure. It will happen, but I am thinking more like March. The economy will probably show no sign of recovering in the first quarter. Banks in the U.K. have basically already thrown in the towel for the first quarter and will think about lending in April. Cash flow lending pretty much ended in the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2008 for all but the best and cleanest companies. Asset-based loans are available, but at tighter ratios and many banks are requiring more personal guarantees. We will probably see many processors fail over the next several months, which is always unfortunate, but sometimes a necessary event. Banks have pulled many lines of credits and are scrutinizing new loans with a fine-tooth comb. You can almost picture the credit man with his polished spectacles working under his green lamp shade, pouring through every piece of paper he can get his hands on, ready to use the "DENIED" red ink stamp at a moment’s notice. That's not what we need right now. We need banks to ease up on credit.

One bright spot is in the community bank arena.  We are finding that the local banks are stepping up in many cases and working with business owners to get the credit they need to run their business effectively. Business owners should seek to have at least two banking relationships in this environment to try and create some competition in order to secure the best credit terms available. Processors should be looking to clean up their balance sheet if they want to best position themselves to obtain additional credit.  Collecting or writing off any stale receivables, writing down old inventory, and updating valuations of fixed assets and real estate should all be seriously considered by executives and managers. I would also consider alternative financing sources, like mezzanine debt—it can be a bit costlier—but it’s abundant right now.

I would expect to see manufacturers assist processors with financing as much as possible in the upcoming months. Everyone in the supply chain will need to work together. Open communication among all parties will be a critical element in making it out of this recession.
 
MPW: What’s happening to valuations of processing businesses? 

Agosto: In general, public valuations are down across all industries; very few firms will come out of this unscathed. Processing businesses are down 25% to 50% in some cases.  The markets are volatile and irrational right now. M&A prices have come down and will continue to do so. For public companies, buyers will want acquisitions to be accretive and as expeditious as possible. Now that we are seeing lower valuations in the public markets, we can expect strategic acquirers to place lower valuations when making acquisitions. For private equity buyers, they will have to deal with using less debt and more equity, which lowers their IRR (Internal Rate of Return)—so prices must come down. That said, the lower middle market, say deals under $100 million, has not seen such a steep decline, and, for very strong businesses, valuations are holding. I would not expect to see too much reduction in values going forward for these size companies, as prices generally remain more stable. They don’t rise as much or as rapidly as with larger deals, but they also don't fall as much.

MPW: With the housing and automotive sectors under such duress, not to mention the broad overall decline in demand for virtually everything, are things going to get worse before they get better?

Agosto: First, things will get worse before they get better. The downturn in the economy is global, not just in the U.S. Everyone is affected. Processors are under a lot of pressure right now. We are seeing inventory build up at higher costs, at the same time that prices are dropping for raw materials at an unprecedented pace. We are seeing orders slow down and visible pipeline and backlog diminishing. Customers are also paying late and in some cases not paying at all, which obviously negatively impacts working capital for suppliers and vendors. Consumer spending is down and consumer confidence recently hit a record low. Banks have tightened their grip around processors and are renegotiating terms in many cases. Processors are laying off workers and not investing back into the business. There seems to be very much a “let’s retrench while we wait and see what happens before we do anything” attitude. The only problem is that leads to a lot more waiting and a lot less happening. 

MPW: This may be resolved by the time we go to press, but do you think it’s necessary for Detroit to get some sort of help from Washington? What are the dominos for processors if help is denied or stalled? What do things look like if Washington does bail them out?

Agosto: This will be a tough battle in Washington, but I see no other choice but to provide some assistance to U.S. car manufactures.  I am not in favor of a bailout, but rather a long-term investment by the U.S. government.  The repercussions or the domino effect as you alluded to are so potentially staggering that it could cripple plastic companies (as well as other suppliers) with a large exposure to the auto industry.  But the money cannot be without change.  The Big Three must adopt new operating strategies, change out management, and look to become more efficient without sacrificing innovation. The union will also play a large role and will need to make a number of concessions.  I am not sure how many car companies will come out of this alive, but consolidation will also play a part in the long-term viability of these companies.  In the longer term, plastic and composite companies will play a greater role in the automobile industry due to the numerous benefits these materials provide.—[email protected]

Mark Agosto is managing director at McGladrey Capital Markets (Costa Mesa, CA), which provides investment banking services principally to privately owned midsized businesses and mid-cap public companies. Plastics plays a large role at the firm, and it claims to have been one of the leading middle market banks for composite and advanced material-related transactions over the last several years. More at www.mcgladreycm.com.


Time for restructuring in Japan’s injection sector?

YodaAt last count, Japan was still home to 17 manufacturers of injection molding machinery. Considering the top six suppliers commanded an approximately 93% share of unit shipments of close to 16,000 units in 2007, that doesn’t leave much to fight over for the remaining suppliers. For sure among the smaller suppliers are ones that specialize in large machines, vertical machines, and thermoset machines but even they are not immune to competition from home and abroad.

With global financial turmoil expected to see production hit severely in the final quarter of 2008, output for the entire year looks like being around the 13,000 machine level, thereby placing even more pressure on the lesser players, not to mention the market leaders. Could 2009 be the year where significant restructuring is seen in the industry?

The first inklings that Japanese machine builders viewed the status quo as “no go” were confirmed by the acquisition of Demag by Japanese giant Sumitomo early in 2008. This was quickly followed by Japan’s number five player Toshiba announcing a cooperative pact with Krauss Maffei (Munich). The first fruits of this alliance were seen in the latter’s AX series all-electric machines debuted at the recent Fakuma show, which employ servomotor motion control from Toshiba.

Toshiba also acquired 34% of vertical machine specialist Sanjo Seiki (Saitama, Japan) in July 2008. Sanjo now has access to Toshiba’s domestic Japanese sales network, and it also now employs Toshiba machine controllers on its presses.

In another sign of consolidation, JSW acquired close to 15% of Meiki (Ohbu, Japan) in October for a sum that would value Meiki in its entirety at just $8.8 million, and inked a business alliance. The two companies anticipate synergies through joint procurement and complementary product line-ups. Meiki’s focus is on specialty machines such as multi-shot presses for automotive lighting. Meiki is forecasting a $3.1 million loss for the year ending March 2009.

These recent developments could signal the start of a more wide-ranging industry realignment. Even Nissei Plastic, which expects to incur a $10 million-plus net loss this financial year, sees a need for action. “Restructuring will happen in Japan, and we will have to consider such moves for the sake of our shareholders,” says Nissei President Hozumi Yoda. “Although we want to remain independent if possible, we may have to consider [alliances] in order to improve our production efficiencies.” Yoda says they would only consider a tie-up it made sense in terms of manufacturing locations, and any partner would have to possess strong R&D foundations.—[email protected]

A simple solution for a complex performance

KÁ TheaterGenerally speaking in theatrical performances, if something appears effortless, it’s because there is a very complex and detailed infrastructure making it seem that way. Perhaps the greatest example of this is the surreal, gravity-defying stunts and tricks performed by the cast members of the numerous Cirque du Soleil shows. And while many of the shows take place in portable tent structures that travel from city to city, the permanent home of the troupe’s KÁ show in the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas, NV, allows for even more spectacular sets and illusions than in other shows.



Energy Chain cable carriers can handle the high loads and accelerations necessary for the KÁ show.



Though the movements on the stage look effortless, it takes a lot of equipment behind the scenes to make the show possible.


There’s really no center stage here, since many of the show’s 80 performers sail through the air, balance on apparatus extending from different parts of the theatre, and even slide down a 350-ft3 cascade of Portuguese cork imitating sand on the main performance platform, which tilts in every direction.

Considered to be the most technical show in Las Vegas, KÁ uses massive amounts of cables and hoses to provide power to elements such as light, projectors, and one of the most complicated networked computer control systems in the industry. Plastic cable carrier manufacturer igus (East Providence, RI) supplied the housings to protect the cables and wires on each of the production’s five stages. The all-plastic System E4/100 and Light Energy Chains are specifically designed to handle high loads, accelerations, and speeds, and the unique side-link and stop-dog design allows these carriers to reduce noise by 50%. With such a complicated setup, the maintenance-free, snap-open crossbars are ideal for easy cable installation. The chains are made from a proprietary material called igumid G that offers gliding speeds of up to 16.4 ft/sec.

More than a million spectators have seen the KÁ artists perform acrobatic feats, Capoeira dance, puppetry, and martial arts since it opened in 2005, and the durability of the igus cable carriers should certainly withstand the 10 weekly shows for years to come.—[email protected]

Top left photo: The design of the KÁ theater is out of the ordinary, and the cables controlling the movement of the five stage components are safely protected by igus plastic cable carriers.

Four million manufacturing jobs gone in last eight years

According to the Current Employment Statistics of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which were distributed by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (Washington, D.C.), more than 4 million U.S. manufacturing jobs have been lost since November 2000. In that month, there were 17,202,000 people working in manufacturing jobs. In November 2008 that group had been reduced to 13,168,000.—[email protected]

The Troubleshooter, Part 109: Another classic case of a ­polycarbonate part being ambushed

An undersized runner system causes an abundance of cosmetic and filling problems.

A few weeks ago the FedEx driver showed up at my door with a big thank you. The package he was delivering was smaller and lighter than most of my deliveries and he was just expressing his appreciation.

I opened the box and found a black polycarbonate part with an intact runner and sprue system attached. I could see sink on the top surface and a filling problem on one end. I couldn’t see any parting line flash so the tonnage of the molding machine seemed to be OK.



This article continues our series of troubleshooting reports from one of the leading on-the-spot problem solvers in the molding industry. Consultant Bob Hatch of Bob Hatch & Assoc. (www.bobhatchonline.com) has more than 45 years of experience finding solutions to processing challenges. You can reach him at [email protected].


Now, I have found that the more I work on problem parts, the quicker I can figure out the problems. So I could quickly see that the sprue was undersized, and the vestige of the gate orifice told me it was much too small to be effective as well. Also, the gates were not deep enough for a part with a 0.100-inch wall thickness, and the land lengths were too long—possibly twice as long as they should have been for a part of this size and wall thickness. The gate width on the long subrunners was pretty close to being the only correct dimension on the part, but it was too wide for the short end subrunners.

The venting appeared to be functional—there were no burns on the surface around the parting line or in those end-of-fill areas that like to trap air. It’s pretty hard to see burns on a black part, but if you look closely, you can see a grainy condition or black carbon appearance.

The runner system

After my preliminary examination, I turned my attention to the details. I like to start at the subrunner or runner that feeds the gate. In this case, the part had six gates. This meant the runners should all be sized pretty much the same.
For a polycarbonate part with 0.100-inch walls like this one, I use a formula I came up with many years ago: Multiply 0.100 by 2.25 to get a subrunner diameter of 0.225 inch. Then add 0.025 inch to get 0.250 inch for the main runner diameter.
Here’s where I found the first problem. Both the main runner and subrunner diameters were 0.250 inch. What happens when the subrunner and main runner diameters are the same? You get pressure loss in the runner system. The correct sizing would be 0.225 inch for the subrunner and 0.250 inch for the main runner.

Given this change, the moldmakers would probably need to make some adjustments to the runner plate. They could either recut it to make the subrunners 0.225 inch and the main runner 0.250 inch, or they could leave the subrunners at 0.250 inch and open the main runner to 0.275 inch. This would remove the pressure loss and save a little money for the molder.




Sink and filling problems were resolved by a few adjustments to the runners and gate.


Now it was time to move to the sprue. The sprue O-diameter was 0.180 inch and the nozzle orifice diameter was 0.125 inch. In my formula, I add 0.050 inch to the main runner diameter, which would give us a sprue O-diameter of 0.300 inch. I usually tell the toolmakers just to use a sprue bushing of 5⁄16 or 0.312 inch to make it easier for them. They probably have a sprue bushing with a 0.312-inch orifice but not a sprue bushing with a 0.300-inch orifice. This slight sizing difference doesn’t usually hurt because bigger is often better when it comes to sprue bushing O-diameters.

The nozzle needed to be a full-taper design for amorphous materials and the nozzle orifice needed to be 10% smaller that the sprue O-diameter. Following this rule would make the nozzle orifice diameter approximately 0.280 inch to maintain pressure throughout the nozzle, sprue, and runner system.Next, I moved to the gates. I started with a depth of 0.075 inch since we could always go deeper if needed. For polycarbonate, the depth of an edge gate should be 75-90% of the part wall thickness. The edge gate depth was 0.040 inch, but based on a wall thickness of 0.100 inch, the gate needed to be at least 0.075-0.090 inch deep.

Once I determined edge gate depth, I could determine the gate land length. It was 0.070 inch on the black part. The rule is that the gate land length must be equal to half the edge gate depth but should not exceed 0.030 inch. So the land length needed to be 0.030 inch for all six gates.

Now for the gate width, which I measured at 0.275 inch: A typical edge gate width is twice as wide as the gate is deep, so it needed to be 0.150 inch wide (2 x 0.075). Since the width determines material flow capabilities and since the length of the two subrunners at the end of the main runner was shorter, the width of the end gates would be about 25% less than the gate width on the other four runners, or 0.110 inch. All of the gates could be welded up and recut to the proper depth, width, and land lengths.
That was all I could see to do so I called the molder. He was out of town on business so I gave the good news to his daughter. Just two or three hours in the toolroom and this mold would be ready to sample, most likely creating parts without the cosmetic defects and with a faster ­cycle.

The molder called back a few days later and said the mold changes had been made, the samples run, and his customer was very pleased. I couldn’t ask for a better result than what he achieved.

The Troubleshooter’s notebook

Part/material: Black PC.
Tool: Single-cavity cold runner.
Symptoms/problem: Sink, short shots.
Solution: Decrease diameter of subrunners; increase sprue and nozzle orifice ­diameters; decrease gate width and land length but increase gate depth.

Blowmolder Mergon Corp. sees its way to injection, too



Allan Hinchliffe

Growing business in an economically depressed economy isn’t easy, but Mergon Corp., a global company with industrial blowmolding operations in Anderson, SC, is trying to do just that by adding injection molding at that facility. Allan Hinchliffe Mergon is headquartered in Ireland, and has another facility in the Czech Republic.

Mergon established the plant in South Carolina in 1998 to better service a major copy machine manufacturer with blowmolded toner cartridges and waste bottles. The company had been processing these in Ireland and shipping them, but being close to the OEM has been a factor in the growth of Mergon’s South Carolina business.

The company’s Czech operation also is an industrial blowmolder of, for example, hospital bed panel assemblies and power tool cases. The site in Ireland also produces healthcare products and business equipment components, as well as traffic management systems (barriers), power tool cases, wheels for trash containers, and packaging. Mergon’s Irish plant also earned recent approval from a major automotive system supplier for manufacture of injection molded windscreen washer systems.

Allan Hinchliffe, general manager for the North American division, says that the decision to add injection molding in Anderson “gives us more opportunities to put value in and take cost out.” He added that it’s also a great way to mark 10 years in business in the U.S. “The decision to add injection molding technology gives us significant opportunities to grow our business with existing customers in both the U.S. and Europe,” he predicts.

Many of Mergon’s blowmolded components, such as those toner bottles, are married with injection molded parts. The bottle also has an injection molded component that the company was outsourcing to a custom molder. “Bringing that component in-house means we don’t have the extra shipping and warehousing costs,” Hinchliffe says. “Molders have to be as lean as we can be in order to thrive, but it also has to be based on practicality.”

Mergon’s primary business in Anderson is blowmolding components such as  underhood parts, behind-the-dash systems like air ducting, underfloor parts, and small off-road engine fuel tanks for the automotive OEMs.

In early July, Mergon Corp. acquired five Nissei and one Arburg injection molding machines ranging from 40 to 300 tons, an investment of more than $1 million. Hinchliffe says these initially are handling the work brought in-house for those business equipment components. “The expansion of the business in Anderson is testament to Mergon’s commitment to our U.S. customers, our employees, and the area,” Hinchliffe states. “Mergon’s philosophy is to build long-term supply partnerships with our customers based on innovation and excellence in quality and customer service. Expanding our technology portfolio will certainly help us achieve this.”

Hinchliffe notes his background is in injection molding, and the company has had an interest in expanding into that process for some time. “We have a huge potential customer base here in this area,” says Hinchliffe. “Blowmolding tends to be a smaller number of components, particularly in a car—a lot less than injection molded parts. However, there is a synergy in engine components between the two processes, and it seems to be working. Customers now know we have injection molding as well. Our intention in Anderson is to grow injection molding to a similar size as blowmolding.”

The automotive market came on strong for Mergon about five years ago when it began blowmolding air-duct systems, primarily for BMW in Greer. “That’s been the primary growth over the past few years,” says Hinchliffe. “They want to cut down on inventory and cut down on freight costs. When gas got quite expensive that became a really big issue. A lot of OEMs accepted suppliers from far away when freight costs weren’t such a factor, but automotive OEMs want suppliers close so they can receive multiple deliveries per day and minimize inventory.”

Opportunity is out there, he says, noting, “The Southeast is an ideal site for an automotive supplier. We believe there’s a lot of opportunities for companies like ours."—[email protected]