- May 31, 2005, Edward Boyle, Contributing Editor
Dave Clarke, VP and general manager of Mega Plastics, a Clinton, MS-based converter of plastic bags and film for industrial packaging, refers to the nine-year-old company as one of the "smaller guys" in its field. But it's not likely to stay that way for long.
The company—which ranked 156th in a list of North American film and sheet manufacturers compiled last year by the industry trade publication Plastics News—installed a 63-in., three-layer Windmoeller & Hoelscher Varex blown film extrusion line shortly after opening its new 40,000-sq-ft manufacturing facility in early 2004. That line already is operating at full capacity.
Clarke says the company installed the multi-layer extruder "to broaden our already diverse manufacturing capabilities, specifically barrier films and packaging, as well as lamination and converter-grade films." (Mega Plastics' six existing extruders were all single-layer machines.) Clarke and the rest of Mega Plastics' senior management team saw the new addition as a way of gaining share in markets that require "higher barrier and superior strength films," such as food processors and packaging converters. It has done just that.
Notes Clarke, "We've surpassed all of our growth projections," which were a not-so-modest 10% annually when Mega Plastics opened its new addition in January 2004. He credits much of that success to the new extruder and a firm commitment to quality and service to existing customers. "We are currently implementing Six Sigma, 5S, and other quality initiatives that will significantly improve on our unsurpassed commitment to quality and service," he says. "In order to be more competitive in a global economy, one must continually improve one’s quality and cost structure to compete with not only domestic but international competition."
Mega attributes a significant amount of its success and growth to the fact that it is large enough to utilize the latest technology yet small enough to focus on the requirements and requests of every single customer.
The W&H multi-layer film system, which opened the doors to new markets and now converts 500,000 lb. of film and bags per month, fits in well with Mega Plastics' film mix, which includes mLLDPE, LLDPE, LDPE, and HDPE bags and films. Its product range includes sheeting, plain and gusseted tubing, bottom seal bags, side seal bags, wicketed bags, bags on rolls, as well as tamper evident and plain zip lock bags. Films are available in widths from 6-in. to 120-in.
The Varex extruder is a modular blown film system for monolayer and coextrusion, including barrier films. The system is equipped with a W&H Filmatic T dual turret winder and the Optifil P2 automatic film gauge control system. Optifil P2 is said to ensure minimum thickness tolerances and to guarantee consistent film quality as a result of a specifically targeted melting temperature before the melt exits the die gap.
Clarke says his management team considered every other multi-layer film extruder on the market and ultimately chose the W&H machine for a number of reasons.
"We spent a lot of time looking and we talked to a lot of suppliers. Based on the track record they had, the lead time – and at that time the euro [exchange rate] was in our favor – we chose to go with the W&H machine," explains Clarke.
He also was impressed with how quickly and efficiently the unit was installed. Running a "smaller" company, he says he couldn't afford a major disruption in either Mega Plastics' production schedule—or his own. The installation, he says, went flawlessly.
"We were extremely impressed with the installation work W&H provided," says Clarke. "All of our existing lines had to run 24/7 during the installation. The on-site W&H representative managed the whole installation, leaving me free to run our company."
Shortly after installing the W&H extruding line, Mega Plastics also added a new 41-in. Ro-An bagmaking machine, one of six Ro-An and Hudson-Sharp bag machines now housed at the Mississippi facility.
The company currently outsources its six- and eight-color printing to other printers/converters but plans to add its own 10-color CI flexo press by year's end. And, as with the W&H extruder, Clarke believes Mega Plastics already has enough work in-house to fill that machine, too. "We have enough six- and eight-color process work where we could run that press 24 hours a day, five days a week right now," he says.
Another major change on the horizon is the official merger of Mega Plastics and its sister company, McNeely Plastic Products, a sales and marketing firm. The combined companies, to be called McNeely Plastics, estimate 2005 sales of almost $30 million after posting $24 million in 2004.
And that's not so small at all.