PHILADELPHIA (June 4, 2012)—Global silicones supplier Bluestar Silicones USA Corp. has opened a 190,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing plant and warehouse in York, S.C., to replace two much smaller facilities in Ventura, Calif., and Rock Hill, S.C.
“This is a game-changer for us,” said Karen O'Keefe, health care market manager for Bluestar, in an interview at the Medical Design & Manufacturing East show, held May 22-24 in Philadelphia. “Having everything all in one location improves our logistics, our manufacturing efficiency and our ability to leverage our research and development.”
The new Bluestar building—a former textile plant—also has an additional 36,000 square feet of office and laboratory space.
“This investment demonstrates our commitment to the North American market,” said O'Keefe. “We expect to be able to provide faster product development. The new plant gives us the room to grow into new markets.”
The $20 million plant, which will have its grand opening ceremony June 15, will bring all of the company's research and development work under one roof alongside manufacturing.
“We have been under space constraints for a while now,” said J. Christopher York, president of the East Brunswick, N.J., company, in a phone interview after the show. “The floor space wasn't that great” in either plant—about 35,000 square feet each—“and expansion of those plants would have been difficult.”
“We are ... building a new foundation here that will create business opportunities and position us for future market share growth,” York said.
O'Keefe said the plant in York will be fully operational at the end of June.
“We began the transition from the Rock Hill plant near the end of last year and in April began moving the equipment from Ventura,” she said.
York said the largest segment of the company's business today is silicone release coatings for film and paper products. Bluestar also makes silicones for textile coatings, specialty coatings, and for the personal care market, and derives 15 percent of its sales from the health care and medical markets.
For the health care and medical markets, Bluestar makes silicones for soft skin adhesives, silicones for prosthetic devices and orthotic foot care comfort inserts, silicone adhesive gels, heat-cured rubber compounds for catheters and tubing, as well as fluids and emulsions for coatings, fluids and elastomers for drug delivery, and putties for dental impressions.
“The new plant has clean rooms with filtration systems versus just a clean room manufacturing environment,” O'Keefe said.
York did not say what markets he expects to profit the most from the new manufacturing plant—only that he expects all of them to grow. He said the company would be adding additional processing equipment, but did not elaborate further.
The plant in York will manufacture all of the company's products such liquid silicone rubbers, high-consistency rubbers, room-temperature vulcanized silicones, fluids, dispersions, release coatings, specialty fluids, resins and antifoam.
Bluestar expects to add 60 jobs over the next two years to its work force that currently numbers about 100 employees. In addition to the employees who relocated from the Rock Hill plant—which is roughly 14 miles to the southeast, “a good portion of the employees in Ventura decided to relocate,” said O”Keefe.
Globally, Bluestar Silicones France SAS is a $650 million company headquartered in Lyon, France. Bluestar Silicones was created in 2007 when China National Bluestar Corp. acquired Rhodia Silicones.