As adhesive manufacturers look to the future, what are they doing to meet customer needs and reach sustainability targets? The recent unveiling of a $40 million expansion at tesa’s manufacturing facility in Sparta, Michigan, provides some answers. The company celebrated the new expansion on September 28 with customers, community leaders, and executives from tesa’s headquarters in Hamburg, Germany.

The facility, located in West Michigan, has been around since 1982. The company’s first manufacturing site outside of Europe, the Sparta plant initially employed 15 people and produced strapping tape and carton-sealing tape. Since those early days, the facility has undergone eight expansions and now serves customers in the automotive, electronics, construction, transportation, corrugated paper, appliance, and printing industries. The current expansion began in 2021 and added 40,000 square feet to the space, including a new solvent-free coating line, a new pilot production line, a Customer Solution Center, and an expanded Product and Technology Development lab.

As Jason Kirk, head of Industry Sales and Marketing at tesa tape, explained, “We are now able to provide our customers with our more sustainable, solvent-free products. In addition, we can go into extensive testing with them on site and become even better and more accurate with the solutions we offer. This expansion continues to solidify our presence in Michigan. The best is yet to come for tesa tape in North America!”


Reaching the Customer

With a location close to customers in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, the Sparta plant furthers tesa’s commitment to producing products as close to its customers as possible. An expanded Product and Development lab features new and faster equipment, and a new Customer Solution Center includes a pilot production line. These facilities will spur cooperation with customers to develop and test more sustainable tape solutions.

In addressing how the expanded facilities will help the company serve customers, Kirk said, “We are either bringing their applications here for testing using our products, or they are actually here working with us. We have space for automated equipment to do some trials with their products and our product. Ultimately, in conjunction with our pilot coating line, we want to work closely with them and innovate products together. So, if we don’t have a product today that meets the solution, working together here in this location we want to find that solution.”

Andreas Meier, head of Product & Technology Development, North America, outlined the benefits of the Customer Solution Center, “There, we give customers the opportunity to work with us — hands-on — on projects. Not only this, but we will have training sessions with our customers. And this will give them the chance during the training to see what kind of capabilities we have here. Besides working hands-on on the projects, but also to have a tour through our application engineering laboratories where we do all the testing, to see the product development capabilities and also the technology development capabilities we have here.”

The expansion added a new pilot production line to the facility.
The expansion added a new pilot production line to the facility.

In terms of technology development, the new pilot production line allows tesa to develop samples much faster, doubling the speed of time-to-market. It also saves money and resources, as the company no longer has to shut down production lines in order to create test samples. Meier estimated that the pilot production facility will reduce the cost of material and operators by a factor of 10.


Community Partner

The company is bringing high-paying technical jobs to the community of Sparta, with the current expansion adding 25 new jobs. Many of the employees at the facility live in the village or Sparta Township They spend at local businesses and send their children to the local schools. Additionally, the company plans to break ground on a warehouse expansion to be built on property purchased from the adjacent school.

“Besides being a major employer, taxpayer, and user of our water and sewer in the village, the company also participates in a lot of our community-based events and functions and often donates to our parks and community efforts that we do downtown. I think it represents how much they appreciate being a part of the greater community of Sparta. It has been a great relationship,” said Jim Lower, Sparta Village manager.


Sustainable Solutions

At the ceremony celebrating the site expansion, tesa representatives gave an overview of the company’s sustainability goals, which include becoming climate neutral in Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 2030, a target of full transparency of the company’s supply chains, the goal of having at least 80% of its spend going to suppliers aligned with tesa’s sustainability standards, and having 70% of the materials for tesa’s products and packaging be from recycled or bio-based sources. The company also aims to provide more products with sustainable end-of-life solutions by 2030, and invest in solvent-free processes and full recovery of solvents.

According to tesa, “This investment marks a significant step for tesa in achieving its ambitious sustainability agenda, which includes the reduction and recovery of solvents and the increased use of bio-based and recycled raw materials.”

New production facility at tesa Site Sparta.
New production facility at tesa Site Sparta.

The new 28,000 square feet of additional manufacturing space in the new facility houses production equipment that is designed with the facility’s goal of “zero waste,” meaning nothing goes to a landfill. Once the once the solvent-free machinery is in use later in the year, the company expects to reduce its natural gas consumption by 40% using the new equipment. This creates a more efficient production process. Additionally, tesa plans to add solar panels on the roof of the Sparta facility. For tesa, the generation of renewable energy is an important pillar of its energy management. Since 2020, all office and production sites have been purchasing electricity exclusively from renewable sources. Sparta solar panels, which will be installed in 2024, are expected to cover around 15% of the energy requirements at the site.

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Images appearing within article courtesy of tesa.