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Here they grow again: Anderson expands

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Photo by Edward Noga Tim Green (left) works at a five-axis vertical mill while Virgil Wilmont and Paul Kohntopp look on.

STOW, Ohio—Anderson International Corp. executives knew an expansion of the firm's new site was inevitable when the machinery maker relocated. They didn't know “inevitable” meant two years.

Blame it on much faster growth than expected by the manufacturer of dewatering and drying equipment for synthetic rubber producers.

The company has gone from 50 to 130 employees since it moved from its Cleveland plant to a facility in Stow, an Akron suburb.

“We're buried,” said Lenny Trocano, president of the privately held company as he walked through the busy machine hall. The building is packed with equipment and work-in-progress.

Trocano and Paul Kohntopp, Anderson vice president and general manager, said they were aware the 78,200-sq.-ft. facility wasn't perfect when the firm acquired it in 2011. “We knew in our gut we should have bought bigger,” Kohntopp said.

“This was smaller than what we came from,” an aging structure on Cleveland's east side, Kohntopp said. “But we are definitely more efficient here,” with a well-thought-out floor layout.

The Stow site has an extensive system of overhead cranes, vital for a company that handles extremely heavy parts and equipment, Trocano said. And the steel structure includes an area that obviously could accommodate an expansion—a back wall that will be extended another 24,000 square feet on the 10-acre site.

Kohntopp termed the cost of the project “substantial.” The firm will rearrange storage and open areas for machinery, including new equipment. The project, slated for completion this fall, also will add some offices.

Overseas focus

Anderson has marched to the beat of a different drummer than much of U.S. manufacturing in several ways. For one, most of the company's customers are overseas. Trocano said its export sales of equipment for SR producers have gone from 70 percent of total shipments five years ago to 84 percent. “I think that trend is going to continue,” he said.

The rapid and enormous growth of the SR industry abroad accounts for much of that business for Anderson, the executives said. Anderson's customers are located in 90 countries, including major projects in China, India, the Middle East and Russia.

Those are the regions where new SR capacity is coming online. In the U.S., Anderson's business typically is spare parts and some replacement of some existing lines, Kohntopp said.

Another characteristic of Anderson is that it “doesn't do cheap,” Trocano said. “We don't compete as the lowest-cost supplier. If you want the cheapest equipment, go elsewhere.”

There are plenty of companies eager to produce equipment and parts such as Anderson's. But when a client is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to establish a plant, they want the real thing, he said. For example, that's why Anderson's equipment is all over China.

Trocano said Anderson doesn't outsource its work, buys castings made in the U.S., and, most importantly, builds entire finishing lines.

“The engineering companies (that SR producers hire) want a single source,” he said. Anderson has partners to provide automation, bailers, conveyors and other ancillaries.

Because it does so much foreign business, Anderson is attuned to working with the Ex-Im Bank, the official U.S. export/import credit agency, and has contracts with firms that deal with certification throughout the world.

Kohntopp said different regions have different requirements—in Europe, for example, the imported equipment needs the CE marking, indicating it meets European Union directives.

“The differences in the requirements aren't that great. But they all have their own tweaks,” he said.

Demand for full lines

The increase in providing full finishing lines—Expeller dewatering and Expander drying machines, bailing and bale handling equipment—is a big reason for the company's growth and the addition of staff.

Trocano said the firm had four or five engineers when he joined the company, before it made the push into providing the finishing line package.

“Now we have 21, and that doesn't include industrial engineers. “Selling complete finishing lines requires much more engineering because you are dealing with bigger engineering companies that have all sorts of requirements,” he said.

Trocano said the relocation to a modern building in Stow helps in obtaining necessary staff. Kohntopp said while the company still can attract talent from Cleveland, the new location gives it more access to people experienced in CNC-based machinery.

Anderson still has equipment operated manually by machinists, and such operators are difficult to find, Kohntopp said. Anderson's capital investment is in CNC equipment, and people to handle it.

Kohntopp came to Anderson from Rockwell Automation, and he brought his experience with the automation giant to the machinery maker.

“I know how important automation is and how companies know that. It is the glue that holds everything together,” he said. Anderson partners with a former colleague of Kohntopp who left Rockwell and started his own firm, rather than form its own automation department.

The machinery maker also has invested in sophisticated 3D software. Its engineers are able to provide a complete picture of a plant layout, enabling a client's engineering contractors to know how the finishing line fits into the entire project. “I don't think there are many competitors that can do that,” Trocano said.

Kohntopp also expressed pride at the installation of a new ERP system, a great tool for scheduling and consideration of capital investment; and the fact that in February the firm will be ISO 9001-certified.

Kohntopp said the plant operates six to seven days with one shift, with about 10-12 people working on a second shift. “There again, if we could find more qualified people, that would be a bigger shift,” the executive said.

The machinery maker, which celebrated its 125th anniversary last year, was founded by Valerius D. Anderson, the inventor of a continuous mechanical screw press, a revolutionary way to extract oil and fats. The company continues to produce equipment for the vegetable oil, animal feed and meat byproduct sectors.