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Conyers firm designs containers for products sold throughout U.S.

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Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith Transparent Container plant manager Phil Sexton displays a mold used for Intel products. In addition to Intel, Transparent Container creates plastic coverings, trays and other protective packaging for a wide range of companies, including Bosch Automotive, Reckitt Benckiser, Milwaukee Electric, Johnson Outdoors and Pittsburgh Glass Works.

CONYERS -- Ever felt like it would be easier to break into Fort Knox than into the plastic container surrounding your newly purchased air freshener?

That plastic container -- a blister pack or clamshell, for example -- was likely specially designed and manufactured by a company in Conyers.

"We do custom plastic thermoforming, as well as fulfillment, for our customers, based on their specifications," said Phil Sexton, plant manager with Transparent Container in Conyers

Transparent Container is headquartered in Addison, Ill., just west of Chicago, and also has facilities in California and Mexico. It's the Conyers location, though, that services the southern United States.

The Conyers facility, which moved from its Parker Road location in 2000 to the 80,000-square-foot site on Sigman Road, employs 16 full-time employees and has the capability of utilizing as many as 150 temporary workers any time.

"One of our strengths is we can go from nothing to 100 mph in 24 hours, based on our demand from our customers," Sexton said. "Our use of temporary employees allows us to be flexible for our customers."

Transparent Container creates plastic coverings, trays and other protective packaging for a wide range of companies, including Bosch Automotive, Reckitt Benckiser, Milwaukee Electric, Johnson Outdoors and Pittsburgh Glass Works.

Some of the most recognizable products that plastic casings are made for in Conyers include Air Wick air fresheners, Bosch spark plugs and Intel microchips. This merchandise is then shipped to retailers across the country.

"Our customers will bring us a product and we will do the design and engineering on that product," Sexton said. "We then make the form fit to the product."

He added that the demand for the plastic protective packaging originated with a major U.S. retailer that wanted a way to make sure its products were "pilfer proof."

Sexton explained that the process begins when a customer presents a product that needs packaging. Transparent Container's design department will then create a prototype based on how the customer wants the product to be showcased on the shelf, accessories that come with it and other specifications.

Once the customer is satisfied, a mold is made for that specific product in the plant in Illinois and shipped to Conyers, where the mold is used to form the plastic casing and then package the product.

Sexton explained there are generally two ways of sealing the plastic casings: heat and radio frequency. He said heat sealing is usually used when sealing a plastic cover to a cardboard-like backing.

Radio frequency sealing is used when the entire container is plastic. Sexton said that applying heat to plastic will melt it and compromise its form. Radio frequency, on the other hand, uses heat generated from within the plastic itself.

"Applying microwave energy to the plastic excites the molecules and it seals the plastic without actually applying heat to the plastic," he said. "It's just like a microwave oven."

Sexton said that Transparent Container offers turnkey services that include printing the graphics on the package and insert cards in the product.

"We supply everything but the product itself," he said, adding that the company can do everything from concept to shipping the packaged product to the retailer.

The economy has not significantly affected Transparent Container's bottom line. Sexton said the privately owned company "is in a growth mode in a down economy," and posted a record year in 2010. He said 2011 is expected to show even better results.

"Because we are so diversified, we typically don't experience the same swings in the market," he said.

Sexton said recycling plays a major role in the operations at Transparent Container. He said the corrugated cardboard used to ship products to Transparent Container from various companies is taken to Pratt Industries just down the road in Rockdale County for recycling. All the scrap plastic left over after the molds are made is sent back to the plastic manufacturer for recycling.

In fact, Sexton said, much of the plastic used by Transparent Container today has been used and recycled for the past 20 years.

"We throw very, very little plastic away," he said.

Sexton added, "One of the most fulfilling things about working for this company is you get to see all your efforts, from design to packaging to delivered to the store, and see it on the shelf locally."