INX completed the move of all digital inkjet ink product lines from the Dixon, California plant to Lebanon in December 2017. Equipment and several key employees were part of the transition. The facility is on goal to manufacture 1.6 million pounds of digital ink this year and is projected to increase to 2 million pounds in 2019. However, expected future growth will not only impact Lebanon but manufacturing facilities in Dunkirk, New York and Appleton, Wisconsin.
“The entire digital manufacturing transfer project to Lebanon, as well as the introduction of digital manufacturing in our Dunkirk facility, has been supported by Sakata INX Research & Development and INX R&D, Operations and Sales here in the US,” remarks John Hrdlick, INX president and COO.
“At the same time we began the transfer of our digital ink manufacturing, we also experienced significant growth in our solvent packaging ink business. Both of these events led to using our existing space in Lebanon to the fullest, which required us to utilize outside warehousing. Future expansion and the use of our Dunkirk facility will help us tremendously, but we are currently making upgrades to our Appleton facility to make sure we continue to keep ahead of solvent packaging growth.”
According to Jim Kochanny, Director of Liquid Operations in Lebanon, solvent packaging ink production at the facility has increased to 2.5 million pounds monthly. In 2019, it is expected to rise to 3 million pounds per month.
The success Lebanon has experienced is due to years of planning. The state-of-the-art, 63,000 square-foot building sits on 11 acres of property and replaced a smaller operation in Cincinnati. Employing over 60 people and involved in the local community, the manufacturing group was selected as the 2017 Industrial Business of the Year by the Lebanon City Council.
Planning for the shift of digital inkjet manufacturing from Dixon began in September 2016, says Heidi Dudley, Director of U.S. Digital Manufacturing, who has been with INX for 14 years. She, along with Quality Control Manager Jose Angel and Lead Quality Control Technician Mathis Gardner, made the move and oversaw the transfer of all product lines, from clear coat to UV.
“Technology was transferred with the addition of brand new equipment for improved manufacturing. The move was important to the division to keep consistency throughout our manufacturing process during the transfer,” said Dudley. “Consistency equals quality, and the objective for the transition was to maintain the consistency between the facilities.”
Hrdlick said INX originally invested $22 million to make Lebanon a cutting edge facility and another $1.5 million in equipment for digital ink manufacturing. It was also designed with the best safeguards for a safe working environment, and safety training has been a top priority from the beginning. These efforts have contributed to the building’s success.
“Automated manufacturing has had the largest impact in Lebanon,” continues Dudley, “with more efficient equipment utilizing computer programming to monitor and maintain the desired specifications. This allows for a controlled energy cost per pound and increased pound per man-hour at the facility. The same technology is being used for digital manufacturing.
“The Lebanon facility is also the industry leader for safety engineering," Dudley adds. "From metalized flooring to reduce static charge, to the integrated ground and bonding of all equipment, we are proud to be able to provide a manufacturing environment for our employees that we are feel safer working in.”
Dudley notes another advantage the Lebanon facility has is its location. It has easy access to nearby Interstate 71, as well as other major east-west and north-south routes.
“The transportation routes were a key factor for customer support. We are now more centrally located to better service all of our customers. The transition to Lebanon also includes additional warehousing at INX locations to support specific product lines for our west coast customers," Dudley says.
With the Dunkirk, New York plant contributing, Hrdlick says INX is well positioned for continued digital growth.
“Our digital volume is showing additional growth opportunities to the extent that we are involving Dunkirk for a portion of our digital manufacturing needs. This is exciting news for us, and with our two facilities involved in digital ink manufacturing, we will have back up capabilities we did not have in the past.”