MUNDELEIN, Ill.—Medline Industries Inc. is adding new equipment and employees as it expands capacity by 30 percent at its Honea Path, S.C., production plant.
Its fourth capacity boost at the facility in 11 years is needed to support an increased demand for latex-free alternatives to natural rubber latex, a company official said, and the plant produces a synthetic polyisoprene material called Isolex, which is used in the firm's Sensicare surgical gloves.
Additional capacity at the site is slated to come on line in March 2016.
“An estimated 5 to 18 percent of health care workers have allergies to natural rubber,” said Paul Bottcher, division president for surgical gloves and orthopedics. “As a result, health care facilities are eliminating products made with latex.”
That has resulted in the need for more Isolex, which is the only material the Honea Path factory produces, he said.
Medline, a producer of synthetic latex gloves for the health care industry, currently has 23 full-time employees at the plant. That number will increase to roughly 35 after the expansion, according to Bottcher.
Manufacturing Isolex is a very automated process, he said, so most of the new equipment will consist of different tanks, reactors, piping and programmable systems.
“Our latex-free Sensicare surgical gloves made with Isolex continue to gain worldwide adoption among surgeons for the tactile sensitivity, comfort and protection they provide compared to latex gloves,” Bottcher said. “Isolex-made products provide the performance of natural rubber latex without the harmful latex proteins.”
As the Mundelein-based company accelerates the growth of its surgical glove business in existing and new markets globally, he said, “being able to control the quality, cost, R&D and supply of the Isolex raw material is very important to us.
“With a growing demand for latex alternatives for medical applications such as catheters and bandage adhesives, to name a few, we are excited to continue to grow this segment of our business.”
Medline manufactures all of its surgical gloves at its factories in Malaysia. Its Isolex material is shipped from the U.S. to the Malaysian glove facilities for the gloves, which are sold worldwide.
Bottcher said Isolex also is shipped to other companies that use the material for other medical applications.
In addition to surgical and examination gloves, Medline produces numerous other lines of goods, including products for advanced wound and skin care; lab supplies and diagnostics; patient and professional apparel; incontinence care; respiratory care; and infection prevention.