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Expansions: Indorama/Toyobo open airbag yarn plant in Thailand; Alpla starts production at plant in Johannesburg

Thailand-based chemical maker Indorama Ventures Public Company Limited (IVL), has completed a plant to manufacture high-performance nylon yarn for automobile airbags. The new plant in Rayong, Thailand, was constructed by Toyobo Indorama Advanced Fibers Co., Ltd. (TIAF), a joint venture that Indorama Ventures established with Toyobo Co in November 2020.

Expansions: Indorama/Toyobo open airbag yarn plant in Thailand; Alpla starts production at plant in Johannesburg

The plant, which has been built on the site of Indorama Polyester Industries PCL (IPI) in Rayong Province, will deliver 11,000 tonnes/year of yarn to meet global demand for airbags that is expected to grow by 3-4% annually as automakers equip vehicles with more airbags and emerging economies require cars to adopt more safety features. Test production is scheduled to start in October 2022 with the goal of starting commercial production in the middle of 2023.

In 2014, Indorama Ventures and Toyobo jointly acquired Germany’s PHP Fibers GmbH, a leading airbag yarn maker. Since then, both companies have strengthened their relationship with a focus to expand in the automotive safety sector. Christopher Kenneally, based in Bangkok, leads IVL’s Fibers segment, which produces fibres and yarns across its Hygiene, Mobility and Lifestyle verticals. Ashok Arora, with over 30 years of experience in fibres and polymer operations, will helm TIAF as CEO while maintaining his role as CTO with IVL Fibers.

Christopher Kenneally, Executive President, Fibers, said: “Indorama Ventures and Toyobo have been trusted partners for many years, driven by our ambition to provide consistent quality and reliable service to the high-potential airbag industry that demands high-performance products. In doing so, we strive to make a difference for our customers as well as the billions of people whose lives we touch everyday with our products.”

DK Agarwal, CEO at Indorama Ventures, said, “Together, Indorama Ventures and Toyobo represent a winning combination of specialist technical and management expertise, years of close collaboration, and deep knowledge of the automotive safety sector. IVL has many partnerships such as this one across our integrated global value chain, which puts us in a strong position to drive leadership in key sectors where we see potential for growth and mutual collaboration. The completion of this new plant is a milestone event in our long-held commitment to growing our mobility fibres business.”

In other news, packaging major Alpla has opened a new headquarters for Sub-Saharan Africa in Lanseria near Johannesburg, South Africa. In the new headquarters for Sub-Saharan Africa, the plastic packaging specialist says it is merging five previous locations in South Africa under one roof. The new plant will produce bottles, closures and special packaging for the food, personal and home care, chemical, cleaning agent and pharmaceutical industries – a total of around 3.5 billion pieces/year.

All Alpla technologies, processes and materials are combined in the Lanseria plant and the first apprenticeship programme of Alpla in Africa will start at the beginning of 2023.

The site spans 35,000 sq m of covered production, administration and storage space, with another 12,500 for future expansion, and 30,000 sq m of roof area equipped with solar panels.

“All of Sub-Saharan Africa is on the upswing, the markets have enormous potential. Our investment in South Africa is a clear commitment to the continent. In this way, we are increasing our competitiveness and guaranteeing the long-term regional supply of safe, affordable and sustainable packaging solutions,’ explains Alpla CEO Philipp Lehner. ‘Here in Lanseria we concentrate our expertise, optimise production processes, use state-of-the-art equipment and create energy-efficient operations,” said Mike Resnicek, Managing Director Sub-Saharan Africa at Alpla.

The plant has one of the largest solar installations on a privately owned manufacturing building in South Africa.

The new location in the industrial area north of Johannesburg combines and builds on the five previous plants in Harrismith, Denver, Isando, Kempton Park and Samrand. The departments, employees and machines were relocated step by step. Around 350 employees will start working in Lanseria and their number is subject to further growth.

Alpla says it uses six different technologies, including injection and compression moulding, injection stretch blow moulding and extrusion blow moulding. In addition to international corporations, it also supplies smaller local companies with plastic packaging solutions.

With the new plant in Lanseria, Alpla adds it is also promoting its own training of specialists and has established a dual education and apprenticeship programme. This dual system of practical and theoretical training based on the Austrian model is already in operation at the Alpla locations in Germany, Mexico, India, Poland and China. From 2023, the first 12 South African apprentices are to begin their training in the plastics technology and machining technology trades in the ‘Future Corner’ training centre in Lanseria.

Alpla operates recycling plants for PET and HDPE in Austria, Germany, Poland, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Romania and Thailand. Other projects are being implemented internationally.


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