By DAVID GREEN
Palm Plastics is back in operation in Morenci, as promised, and turning out thousands of radio frequency identification (RFID) plastic pallets.
Operations came to a halt in April and the plant was temporarily closed, but manufacturing was expected to return in 90 days. The facility was reopened last week, not too far behind the projected date.
“We’re slowly gearing back up again to pre-April levels,” said Jeffery Owen, “but we’re not back up to full production. There are still some people we haven’t called back yet.”
Owen anticipates full production returning by mid-September.
Three lines of pallet production remain in Palm’s Bowling Green, Ohio, location and Owen expects that to continue.
The pallet design remains the same as before, he said.
“We’re always improving the tracking technology, but the product quality continues to be as robust as it was,” Owen said. “There are no concerns or issues in the marketplace.”
The RFID unit allows the location of a pallet to always be known as it’s used in the transportation of goods around the world. Companies leasing the pallets can use the RFID tags to record information about the product being shipped, along with its weight, destination and other information.
The plastic pallets are much more durable than wooden pallets and can be cleaned and even sterilized before reuse.
Owen believes Palm Plastics will continue to remain competitive in the international marketplace.
“One of the things that people need to be proud of, especially in Lenawee County and Morenci, we’ve got one of the best workforces of anywhere in the world,” Owen said. “I’m proud of them. I really am.”
They’re resilient and willing to go that extra mile, he said—qualities that aren’t seen in all areas of the world.
“It’s one of the reasons I’m still there,” he said.
Owen said he still hopes for funding that will allow construction of the second plant in Morenci’s industrial park.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation worked with Palm Plastics and the City of Morenci to create a $5.5 million expansion plan, but the timing of the project fell alongside the start of the U.S. financial crisis in October 2008. Financing for the project couldn’t be obtained.
Palm eventually leased a vacant facility in Bowling Green to keep up with demand for its products. A variety of items ranging from house wares to medical and military equipment are now made in Bowling Green.
Owen remains a strong supporter of the Morenci facility, however, and he’s delighted to see the plant open again.
“I think Morenci is as good a manufacturing location as any place in the world,” Owen said. “I really do. I mean that.”
Palm was purchased by the Lexington, Ky., based Revstone Industries in November 2009 in a joint venture with a Chinese firm.