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Expansion on horizon for Advanced Flexible Composites

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Advanced Flexible Products trio
Photo by RPN photo by Mike McNulty From left, Bart Lewis, Chris Lewis and Michael Baker were on hand to help man AFC's booth during the expo portion of the NIBA convention. They discussed some of the company's recent developments and future plans at the conference, held in Seattle. All three were recently promoted at the company.

SEATTLE—Advanced Flexible Composites Inc.'s core businesses have grown about 25 percent in the last two years, thanks primarily to innovations and key moves made by the firm.

It has expanded, adding machinery and personnel during that time. That growth spurt has not ended.

Now AFC is in the midst of negotiating to add a stand alone building adjacent to its main complex in Lake in the Hills, Ill., according to two company officials.

The company also is adding equipment this year and in 2015, in addition to expanding its work force, they said.

AFC needs to expand its operation to help handle the company's growing business in the quick service restaurant market.

The firm moved into that sector about 12 years ago and since then has developed a unique line of DuraChef silicone- and PTFE-coated belts used for high-speed toasters and other products.

To accommodate the new offerings and additional customers in 2012, AFC purchased a 25,000-sq.-ft. building located across from its 75,000-sq.-ft. headquarters and plant in Lake in the Hills.

That has served AFC well, according to Chris Lewis, newly named president and chief financial officer.

It has now outgrown that facility and its main plant. “We run multi-shift operations across the board at our plants,” he said.

The company currently operates seven facilities: the main complex and a specialty belting plant along with two fabricating sites in the U.S.; a joint venture belting and tape factory along with a fabricating operation in Mexico; and a joint venture belting and tape plant in England.

AFC's growth in the fast food sector has shot up from almost nothing to become almost 45 percent of the company's business in the last two years, said Michael Baker, who recently moved up to the recently created position of chief sales and marketing officer.

Lewis and Baker discussed the latest moves by the company at the NIBA—The Belting Association annual convention, held Sept. 24-27 in Seattle. They noted that new products for the food market are driving greater growth, and across the board business has grown in every segment.

Internally, the company, which was formed in 1988, is adding a coating tower along with capacity at its Lake in the Hills site.

In the first quarter of 2015, the company intends to install a pilot coater to handle smaller projects for research and development.

In the second period, it plans to add another tower at the facility.

“We're aligning ourselves with our customers,” Baker said.

The towers and pilot coater will allow the company to provide faster service, higher quality products and innovative solutions, he said.

In addition, AFC is adding more project engineers and three new sales personnel, and two marketing people have joined the company in the last month, he said.

The company's goal is to become more global in order to serve its customers worldwide, the officials said.

Many of its customers are growing internationally, they said, and want AFC to expand with them.

A key to the family-owned firm's success thus far has been consistent innovation within the company, Lewis said. And that's something it intends to concentrate and rely on as it moves forward.

AFC produces products for distributors and original equipment manufacturers.

The company designs and manufactures PTFE and silicone coated fabrics and belting, along with an extensive line of pressure sensitive tapes, for use in diverse applications

In addition to its DuraChef line, the firm makes goods under the trade names DuraFab, DuraSil, DuraFlow and DuraLam.