LAWRENCE, Kan.—Polymeric Labels has completed setting up its facility in Lawrence, the United Kingdom-based firm's first in the U.S.
The company invested about $2 million on the project, according to Ian Buckley, managing director of Polymeric Labels. Based in Manchester, England, Polymeric Labels makes printed polymer labels for the rubber and plastics industries. Applications include hoses, tires, belts, clothing, rubber mats and sporting goods, though the U.S. location primarily will focus on the hose and belt sectors.
The decision to locate a facility in the U.S. dates back to 2016, Buckley said. The company has been doing business there for more than 20 years, but while visiting factories in the states, they were hearing a lot of talk about wanting American-manufactured goods, about the time the Trump campaign was putting out that message.
"It got to the point where we thought we would have problems with business here if we didn't locate production here," he said. "The U.K. factory is at full capacity. It was a question of whether we expanded that, or if we split it and move some out."
For larger manufacturers, having a second source of supply is helpful, Buckley added. "If there is a natural disaster at one site, the other site can take over and the product is exactly the same," he said. "It gives them supply security."
And the decision to place the facility in Kansas was quite scientific, the executive quipped. "We put all the hose and belt plants on a map, and then looked for a central location. Kansas was in the middle," Buckley said.
Polymeric Labels found a leased, 14,500-sq.-ft. facility. In setting up operations, the firm actually worked backwards. The steps in its process are printing, inspection and finishing.
But Buckley said it put inspection and finishing first, and have been running those the past couple of years.
The final part to put in was the printing, and those lines are fully equipped and running now, said Greg Marlor, plant manager for the Lawrence factory. The operation has two printing presses, along with the inspection and finishing lines. In addition, the firm has its own ink-making equipment.
The final portion of the factory would have been done sooner, but the company ran into some visa problems, according to the officials.
"It's a niche industry, printing rubber," Buckley said. "You can't just go in and recruit somebody who knows the process. So we really had to get someone from the U.K. into the U.S. to start training staff."
On the business side, Polymeric Labels mainly will draw on customers it has done business with, but there is room to work with new clients, Marlor said. "With both plants, we are worldwide," he said. "We can cover anywhere."
Buckley has been with the company for 33 years, ever since his father started it. He's now one of the owners.
There has been new technology brought in over the years, including new compounds, and products that stop staining so the layline information stays bright.
Marlor said while the U.K. business is a wider mix, hose will account for the majority of the U.S. unit's business. The information that is printed includes anything that is required, such as pressure ratings and other information. Generally it is part of the layline.
"Customers kind of want their design on there as well," he said. "They want their logo, and they want their hose to stand out."
It's also important that the hose continues to look good, even when it's in the field. "A lot of these hoses go through extreme temperature changes and atmospheric changes," Marlor said. "So that layline, regardless of what that hose is dragged through or exposed to, is still going to be legible and stand out."
Polymeric Labels employs about 65 in Manchester, and projects 15-20 will work at the Kansas site in the next two years.