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Trelleborg U.S. expansion aligns with growth strategy

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Artist's rendering of Trelleborg's proposed agricultural tire plant in South Carolina.
Artist's rendering of Trelleborg's proposed agricultural tire plant in South Carolina.

STOCKHOLM—Two Trelleborg A.B. business units are making major inroads on separate fronts in the U.S. market.

Trelleborg Wheel Systems is planning to expand its growing operation with the addition of its first manufacturing complex on U.S. soil dedicated to the production of agricultural tires. The facility, located in Spartanburg, S.C., presently produces coated fabrics used to make aircraft slides for the aerospace industry. It also houses a finishing department for printing blankets.

The firm will invest about $50 million to refurbish and expand the Spartanburg factory to about 430,500 square feet, a spokeswoman for Stockholm-based Trelleborg A.B. said. In addition, it will purchase new tire making machinery and add a work force of up to 150 by 2018.

To create room for agricultural tire production, the company plans to relocate the coated fabrics manufacturing operation to its Rutherfordton, N.C., facility and the printing blankets finishing department to its Morristown, Tenn., site, she said, adding that both plants have capabilities and capacities to support the moves.

Once those segments are moved, she added, the Spartanburg factory will be devoted strictly to agricultural tires.

Meanwhile, Trelleborg Marine Systems plans to enhance its manufacturing capabilities significantly in the U.S. with the addition of a new foam-based marine fender and buoy plant in Berryville, Va.

It will close its existing fender and buoy factory in Clear Brook, Va., and move production and employees to the new state-of-the-art location.

Construction of the new plant in Berryville has begun, according to a Marine Systems spokeswoman. The facility is expected to be completed at the end of the year.

Building U.S. presence

Trelleborg Wheel Systems, globally headquartered in Tivoli, Italy, has begun refurbishing the Spartanburg plant, and a sizable expansion at the factory is expected to begin soon. Financial details on the addition were not furnished.

Once that is complete, the company will equip the facility with new, state-of-the-art tire making machinery designed according to the latest Trelleborg technology standards, said the spokeswoman for Trelleborg A.B, a global leader in engineered polymer products that seal, damp and protect critical applications.

Production of tires is expected to begin gradually in the second half of 2015.

The firm's key customers—both original equipment manufacturers and tire dealers—will be assured of quick service for the company's premium tires, the spokeswoman said. The facility will service all of North America.

Trelleborg Wheel Systems selected the site in South Carolina for its first agricultural tire factory in the U.S. because “there is established expertise in the region as well as an opportunity to utilize existing Trelleborg land, buildings and offices,” she said.

“North America is the largest agricultural market in the world, and it is highly attractive for us,” Maurizio Vischi, president of Trelleborg Wheel Systems, said in a statement.

The market for extra large agricultural tires is growing in the region, he said, and, “although we sell our products in the U.S. and Canada, local production offers considerably more favorable conditions, thus enhancing our competitiveness.”

He said that an expanded presence in North America is central to the business unit's growth strategy.

Job development credits for Trelleborg's expansion project have been approved by state agencies, and Spartanburg County is offering the company tax incentives.

The value of the packages will be determined by a number of factors, a state official said, including how quickly the company moves on the expansion and the number of jobs created.

“We are already a leading global supplier of premium tires for agricultural machines, and we intend to consolidate this position through production in North America, with proximity to both existing global customers as well as a potential expanded customer base,” Vischi said.

Trelleborg Wheel Systems also produces agricultural tires at plants in Tivoli, Italy, and Xingtai, China. It makes solid industrial tires at a Red Lion, Pa., facility.

Enhancing capabilities

Trelleborg Marine Systems' plan to expand its operation with the new plant in Berryville and elimination of an older site in Clear Brook, is part of the business unit's overall plan to further enhance its manufacturing capabilities and its ongoing investment program in its U.S. sites, the Marine Systems spokeswoman said.

The new factory will feature about 45,000 square feet of manufacturing space and an estimated 9,000 square feet of space devoted to business development and sales, she said, adding that it will be more modern and better equipped than the one in Clear Brook.

The company will relocate all of its present employees at the Clear Brook site to the Berryville facility by the end of the year. It did not release financial data on the project.

As part of its ongoing commitment to accelerating performance in a sustainable way, the company said, the business unit plans on investing heavily in new, advanced polyurethane spraying and foam winding equipment, which will increase production efficiencies further at the Berryville factory.

Within the marine systems operation, “our customer-focused approach ensures that we are continuously looking for ways to improve our offerings,” according to Richard Hepworth, president of Trelleborg Marine Systems.

He said it is essential “that we are best-placed to meet ever growing customer demands, both in terms of capacity and developing innovative, cost-effective solutions that enhance safety and improve efficiency and performance in demanding marine environments.”

A new state-of-the-art high speed test rig capable of testing both full-size rubber and foam fenders in accordance with federal fender guidelines will be added at the plant because testing is critical to ensuring the company's portfolio remains at the leading edge, Hepworth said.

Its materials testing program is a global leader, he maintained, and to complement it “we're adding full-scale testing facilities which will ensure products perform above and beyond customer expectations.”

Hepworth said that while the Clear Brook facility has served the company well, “the market is evolving rapidly, and our commitment to quality means we need to keep pace through truly cutting edge capabilities.”

Trelleborg Marine Systems has been adding to its U.S. base throughout 2014. In April, it joined with Trelleborg's offshore business unit to open a new sales and business development office in Houston, giving it a local feet-on-the-ground presence in a city with a strong presence in the oil and gas industry.