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Small custom mixers must rely on flexibility, service

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Bigger isn't always better.

As the custom mixing industry continues to consolidate, with bigger players acquiring more firms in 2014, small companies continue to find ways to stand out in the market.

Most are nimble, flexible and place a large emphasis on their customers because, in most cases, they're an extension of their customer's manufacturing operations.

“We're a very flat organization. The customer is only two levels away from talking to me,” Dyna-Mix Inc. President Jim Reszler said. “We can move very quickly to resolve any issues.

“Everyone knows what development work needs to be done. We can change things on the fly, and most of all we can get orders out sometimes in the same day if the customer has an emergency.

“We're not the 800-pound gorilla; we're more the antelope.”

Dyna-Mix is headquartered in Grafton, W.Va, employs about 88 and is very diversified. Reszler said no customer represents more than 5 percent of its business, while automotive is its top industry at 20 percent or less of its sales.

The mixer makes compounds for a variety of industries, services small- to medium-sized customers and does not do any tire mixing.

Reszler describes the firm as nimble in every aspect and can adapt if its customer has an unexpected problem—for example, if a mixer goes down. And there are not many layers between customers and management, with the sales staff on a first-name basis with clients.

“By not being one of those consolidated, we stand out by ourselves,” Alttran Inc. Owner Dave Topliff said. “We do see as the industry consolidates, people looking for other options.”

Alttran serves all industries, growing at a 30-percent rate per year since its first full year in 2006, Topliff said. Like Dyna-Mix, he said relationships are paramount in standing out and thriving in the industry.

“Our company is all about our customers,” he said, “the relationships that we have and build with those customers, as a small company. We don't have marching orders like some larger companies do, which gives us a real ability to focus on our customers and what they need.”

Collaboration, Topliff said, can't be done at arms length. Alttran gets its customers inside to develop, test and work through any issues, then they follow through in their customer's factory.

All of the custom mixers interviewed said their customers can pick up the phone and talk to anyone at any time.

“Customer service is critical to what we do,” said Marian DeVoe, president of Chardon Custom Polymers L.L.C. “I can't say enough about having clear communication and excellent customer service and relationships play a big role in that.”

With 26 employees and hiring more, the Chardon, Ohio-based compounder serves a variety of industries—including automotive, transportation, appliance, utility, and oil and gas.

DeVoe said being a small firm can open niche opportunities not present to larger compounders because of a smaller compounder's manufacturing flexibility, technology and personalized customer service. Smaller firms have the ability to be closer to the customer at all levels and adjust quicker when unexpected needs arise.

“When you supply custom mix, you're not just supplying a component,” Chardon Sales Manager Mitch Showers said. “You're part of that customer's manufacturing process. You really have to be aware of it and tied in close with it, and I think that's what we bring to the table. We do have that intimacy with the customers and care about the smallest nuances they may have.”