Some manufacturers are rigid in their ways and resistant to change, but not StyroChem. The expandable polystyrene (EPS) manufacturer keeps successful by customizing for its clients. “We’re [more] willing to take on harder challenges than other manufacturers in our industry, such as customizing formulations,” Director of Technology and Specialty Sales Melissa Wallum says.
StyroChem, which has locations in Montreal and Fort Worth, Texas, manufactures its EPS products for foodservice, packaging, construction, casting and specialty applications. The firm began operations in 1978 as Expandable Technolo- gies, and initially produced material for foam coffee cups.
Throughout the years, the company branched out into other EPS applications and implemented the StyroChem name in 1994. “We cover every application that EPS is used in,” she says, noting these include cups and material for a six-cylinder engine for BMW. “We specialize in the more technically demanding markets.”
However, President Glenn Wredenhagen notes, 70 percent of StyroChem’s work is for foodservice clients. “It is a very favorable mix for us,” he asserts. “Eighty percent of what we sell is by long-term supply agreement. It’s just a dependable business model.”
A Healthy Product
Amongst StyroChem’s newest products is EVRgreen™, an EPS resin that is used to produce a polystyrene foam cup that can degrade in a landfill in 10 years, which is hundreds of years shorter than it usually takes, Wallum says.
“Everybody is concerned about what goes into the landfill and [if] it will stay there forever,” Wallum says, noting that the product will alleviate its users’ concerns. “The space that it does take up will be free in 10 years. You end up with a very healthy carbon footprint.”
StyroChem has continuously focused on improving its manufacturing operations. According to Wredenhagen, the company implemented lean manufacturing five years ago, and has not stopped looking for ways to be more efficient.
“We’re always getting leaner,” he says, noting that lean was critical to helping the company survive the economic crisis.Additionally, StyroChem’s Montreal plant is fully “fly by wire”, where all manufacturing activities, inventory and logistics can be monitored real time from anywhere in the world by any level of management. Because of this platform, all managers and technical people can be contacted and consulted at any time of the day or night.
StyroChem also has implemented automated equipment throughout its operations. “That makes the material extremely consistent,” Wallum says. “We’ve developed quality standards that exceed ISO and QS.”
General Manager Marc Cayouette explains that the firm’s Montreal facility recently expanded its operation with new equipment, allowing it to produce 120 million pounds of material annually.
“We put them in and fine-tuned the whole thing,” he says.
Cayouette notes that StyroChem has benefited from the aid of its logistics partners, who provide the firm with personal warehousing. “They take the product, move it out and put it in their yard,” he says, noting that the firms can hold it from five to seven days.
Cayouette sees a strong future for StyroChem through its new biodegradable cup, which it launched last year. So far, the market response has been very positive worldwide, especially in Asia and Latin America, where disposal solutions are strongly needed.