Achilles USA pulls wraps off new Everett plastic film plant

  • By Kurt Batdorf SCBJ Editor
  • Thursday, November 3, 2011 1:17pm
  • Business

EVERETT — After a traditional blessing by a Shinto priest, Achilles USA executives cut a ceremonial ribbon to open their new plastic film production plant on Nov. 1.

The new plant will produce polyethylene, a greener type of plastic that doesn’t contain chlorine compounds found in polyvinyl chloride plastic films that Achilles USA has produced since its facility, located about a mile east of Boeing’s airplane assembly plant, opened in 1974.

Achilles USA executives and Achilles Corp. President Hiroshi Nakata, who came from company headquarters in Japan, invited selected guests to attend Tuesday’s ceremonies and to thank the contractors, city officials, Snohomish County PUD staff and their own employees who worked on the 35,000-square-foot, $13 million plant that sits behind Achilles’ existing facilities on 80th Street SW.

Achilles USA President Takuo Suzuki said the company built the new plant in response to customers who want to use a “greener” plastic. Nakata said Achilles will open a similar polyethylene film manufacturing plant in Japan.

“Today is the start line of our new generation,” Suzuki said.

Achilles USA also built a greener building with its new plant. With the energy efficiency initiatives Achilles USA took, Snohomish County PUD expects to offer the company about $16,000 in incentives based on projected energy savings.

“We are so pleased that your company has decided to expand here in Everett,” Mayor Ray Stephanson said. “Thanks for treating your workers so well and thanks for running such a good company.”

“This is a big event for Achilles,” said Scott Bollinger, vice president and national sales manager for Achilles USA. “Our customers want films that’ll get them better yields, films that are greener and phthalate-free.”

Phthalates are used to make plastics — including PVC — more flexible, but they’re being phased out of many products in the U.S., Canada and the European Union over growing health concerns.

“We felt strongly that to continue our reputation as a high-quality film manufacturer we needed to make a significant investment,” Bollinger said.

To make the film, small plastic pellets stored in outdoor silos are pumped into a machine that melts the pellets into a mass and extrudes it through rollers that determine the film’s final thickness, he said.

While polyethylene is still derived from crude oil like other plastics, its considered more environmentally sustainable than its polyvinyl chloride cousin that Achilles will continue to make in Everett to satisfy market needs, Bollinger said.

Polyethylene is more recyclable than PVC and doesn’t contain PVC’s phthalate plasticizers or chlorine, Bollinger said. Polyethylene is also lighter than PVC and has better production yields.

Achilles USA left room in the new plant to add more production lines, Bollinger said. The plan is to add a second line in the next two years and a third line in four years.

You can find Achilles USA’s plastic films in a wide array of products, including three-ring binders, static clings, industrial fabrics, reflective signs, labels, tool pouches, safety tape, boat windows, medical bags, vinyl envelopes, storage cases and more. Even waterbed mattresses.

Achilles USA employs 165 workers in its Everett facility and generates about $70 million in annual sales, Suzuki said. The company has five PVC film production lines in the existing building.

To run the new polyethylene line, Achilles USA hired a few new workers and transferred others from the PVC manufacturing line, Bollinger said.

John McCrossen is one of those workers. He said he’s worked in every department at Achilles USA over the past 32 years and he’ll work as a “slitter” to cut rolls of film to customer-specified widths. He said he likes working for Achilles USA because they take care of their employees and treat everyone “like family.” He could recall only one layoff in all the years he’s worked there.

“It’s a good company to work for,” McCrossen said.

Kurt Batdorf: 425-339-3102; kbatdorf@scbj.com.

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