CertainTeed will expand capacity in KCK plant

CertainTeed Corp. is expanding within its massive Kansas City, Kan., insulation factory and expects to boost production of three popular fiberglass insulation brands by 15 percent to 20 percent within months.

The expansion, however, may not include adding many employees, even though the company predicts the new line will run around the clock."This particular line is pretty highly automated," spokesman Tom Newton said Thursday from the company's U.S. headquarters in Valley Forge, Pa. "Right now it doesn't look like any substantial increase in employment."

Newton declined to disclose cost of the expansion.

The new production line is needed to meet consumer demand for blown-in fiberglass insulation, Newton said. Long-term strength in housing construction, along with changing housing codes requiring increased amounts of attic insulation, have stimulated the market for blown-in products, he said.

Construction on the production line will start in early 2004, and the line will be up and running by mid-year, the company said.

The factory may have to expand its furnace to accommodate the increased production demand, Newton said. That's likely to occur next year, when the five-year life of the furnace comes to an end, and the furnace will be rebuilt.

CertainTeed makes fiberglass insulation by melting sand mined from nearby river beds with recycled glass in the furnace, then rapidly spinning the molten mixture to force it through tiny holes.

"The analogy -- technical people hate it when I use it -- is it's like cotton candy," Newton said.

In 1998, CertainTeed completed a $150 million-plus expansion of its fiberglass manufacturing plant in the Fairfax Industrial District. The plant employs 425 people in what may be the largest production line for fiberglass insulation in the world, as big as three football fields.

Products made on the expanded production line will be sold under the company's existing brands, including Greenguard, InsulSafe 4 and Optima.

CertainTeed is a subsidiary of Paris-based Saint-Gobain. With worldwide sales of $27.2 billion in 2001 and a work force of 173,000 in 45 countries, the conglomerate is a leading producer of abrasives, building materials, containers, flat glass, industrial ceramics, insulation, reinforcements and piping.

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