PARSIPPANY, N.J. (Aug. 11) — Degussa Engineered Carbons L.P. will close one of the two rubber black production lines at its Belpre, Ohio carbon black plant effective Sept. 30.
About 15 employees will be laid off, the company said. The closure will not affect the remaining rubber black line or the production of pigment grades at Belpre.
"The tire industry continues to restructure their manufacturing facilities, leading to the permanent closing of several North American tire plants," said Jack Clem, president and general manager of DEC. He added that the move will better align the firm's supply chain with these major customers, "allowing us to meet demands from our existing facilities, rationalize our capacity and remove costs from our system."
Clem said DEC regrets the reduction in its work force, particularly after the strong progress that the Belpre facility has made in improving productivity. But with slowing demand from the tire industry, and the ability to meet customer commitments in the foreseeable future from other facilities, he said, "we believe this is the best way for us to remain competitive in this tough North American environment."
DEC officials said that the 30,000 metric ton per year line would remain intact and could be restarted when customer demand warrants.
The company said that the closing of several major tire plants in North America has not been fully offset by expansions in the remaining production facilities of North American tire producers. In addition, low-cost, imported tires continue to gain market share.
While the long-term demand trend for carbon black should remain positive, it is presently undergoing a restructuring, the firm said. "This retrenchment is expected to last at least through next year," according to Chris Erickson, vice president and business director of rubber blacks.