Firm adds 140 workers as sales of silicon products used in health care and auto industries grow

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A London company originally known for making auto parts is tapping into the growing health care industry, with sales so good it’s on a hiring and expansion spree.

Starlim North America Corp., on Tartan Drive, is more than doubling in size and adding 140 workers as sales of its silicone products, used in health care and the auto industry, take off.

“The market opportunity for both automotive and health care has been really good to us,” said Vijay Lakshmikanthan, vice-president of Starlim.

Its North American head office in London, Starlim is busy exporting throughout Canada, the United States and Europe, Lakshmikanthan said.

Now in a 70,000-sq.-ft plant, Starlim is adding a 165,000-sq.-ft. addition that will house new offices, floor space for 75 new machines (it now has 50), and a state-of the-art “clean room” for that high-tech, health care work.

“There is a lot of chaos here now — we have been squeezing ourselves in here,” said Lakshmikanthan.

Starlim has about 80 staff, but that will nearly triple to 220 over the next year, he added.

“Life sciences, for sure, is growing. We have established ourselves. We are becoming well known across North America. That has helped quite a bit.”

As for where the growth is, 60 per cent of the company’s sales are now in life sciences while 40 per cent is automotive related.

When Starlim opened in 2005, 70 per cent of its business was in automotive.

“Our growth has been in the life sciences industry,” said Lakshmikanthan.

Lakshmikanthan said he hopes the work will be done, and new production fired up, by the end of 2018, but the company may be in new office space by the end of this year.

“It seems that as the population ages, there is more of a requirement to produce high-quality, high volume (medical products),” he said.

The addition will give the plant its own “clean room,” essentially a confined area whose air will be filtered with high-tech equipment to keep its particle count limited.

Clean rooms are in demand by clients and are used for making health care related products where high standards of cleanliness are required.

At Starlim, a new type of O-ring will be made in the clean room.

“It is a very controlled space,” said Lakshmikanthan.

Among the company’s life sciences products are valves, syringes, intravenous parts as well as O-rings.

Its automotive products include seals and connector parts and boots for spark plugs.

“Silicone is perfect for cars and engines, which get very hot and freezing cold,” extreme temperatures silicone can handle.

Starlim bought 17 acres of land in 2002 and has occupied about four acres, but it will take up about nine acres after the expansion.

That kind of growth doesn’t surprise Gerry Frenette with Medec, a national association representing Canadian medical technology companies.

“It is a growth area,” said Frenette. “We have an aging population and a greater reliance on the health care system to meet the needs of its citizens and the role technology can play is instrumental” in aiding patients.

“We have an aging population that is increasing demand and medical technology can help people,” said Frenette.

The expansion is just the latest from Starlim, which has seen steady growth since opening, added Kapil Lakhotia, chief executive London Economic Development Corp.

“Starlim has demonstrated significant growth and commitment to London over the past 10 years. They have had several expansions since locating here, they have made a significant investment in the community,” said Lakhotia.

“Starlim has unique, industry-leading capability.”

The Southwestern Ontario auto parts sector is also booming, with London landing a new plant. Mexican firm Goss Global will open a $5-million 30,000-square-foot plant on Max Brose Drive and employ about 50, as it wants to expand into the U.S. market from Canada, it announced this summer.

Sodecia, another parts maker, also opened a $15-million research and development centre Monday — and broke ground on a $30-million sister plant.

The London area has more than 50 auto parts makers that employ about 10,000 workers,

According to a federal government website, Canada has an estimated US$6.7 billion medical device market accounting for about two per cent of the global market. In 2016, the global market for medical devices was valued at US$336 billion.

In 2011 Starlim acquired Poly Nova Technologies in Guelph, a rubber molding company.

“Starlim acquired Poly Nova in order to diversify its offering to our customers since Poly Nova manufacturers products from a different raw material, rubber. Our product offering therefore complements one another,” said Lakshmikanthan.

Poly Nova now has about 150 workers. Since 2011 Starlim has invested $13 million in plant upgrades and new production equipment, he added.

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