DuPont Shutting down Part of Charleston Plant
DuPont Co. is transferring the manufacturing of Kevlar from their Charleston, S.C. factory to its Spruance facility in South Richmond, S.C., where they already produce most of the super strong fibre used in the manufacture of bullet-resistant protective vests and helmets.
The announcement that the company will stop producing Kevlar at its Cooper River plant, in Berkeley County, comes only six years after DuPont completed the $500 million Kevlar factory there. They opened the plant to raise the global production of Kevlar by 25% due to higher demand. But, the company now reports a sales decline in the business division that includes Kevlar.
Manufacturing of Kevlar will end at the South Carolina plant in June, with the decommissioning of equipment due to be completed by July 31st.
A DuPont spokesperson said this would impact 113 employees who will be offered jobs at other company-owned facilities, including the plant in Richmond. But, how many will make the move is still not known.
DuPont will actually continue operations at the Cooper River plant to manufacture its heat-resistant fabric Hytrel, which is used for appliance and automotive parts. That manufacturing division employs 50 workers.
When DuPont announced their plans to open their Kevlar production line in 2007, to be located in South Carolina, officials said the demand for Kevlar was growing so this new site was needed, however military applications for Kevlar were expected to diminish over time.
In 2007, DuPont also announced they would invest $50 million in their Richmond factory in order to expand Kevlar production at that location. DuPont, which is headquartered in Wilmington, Del., doesn’t give out sales figures on Kevlar specifically. This product makes up part of DuPont’s Protection Solutions division, which comprises other high-performance fabrics like Tyvek and Nomex, which they also make in Richmond.
In 2016, the company did release sales figures for their entire Protection Solutions division, which showed they were down 3% in sales from 2015. The company said there were declines in volume for Tyvek, Nomex and Kevlar, which were the result of a weakening in oil and gas, military and the overall industrial market.
Aside from body armor, Kevlar is used in a range of other applications, including fiber-optic cables, automotive parts and sporting goods.
DuPont employs approximately 1,800 people at their Spruance plant. They have about 30 job openings at that factory, including jobs for mechanics, electricians, engineers, operators, and training managers. This consolidation of the two Kevlar production lines comes as DuPont is trying to merge with Dow Chemical Company, based in Michigan, which was announced back in December 2015.
DuPont agreed to a $730 million cost-savings globally as part of this merger, along with a consolidation program that ultimately would cause job cuts of about 10% of its workforce. DuPont currently employs 46,000 people in 90 countries and their profits for 2016 were $2.5 billion, up from $1,9 billion in 2015. Total revenue for 2016 was reportedly $24.6 billion, which was down from a total of $25.1 billion in 2015.