Everything about Lord Corp. is big.
It's a major global player in the noise, vibration and motion control product industry, the specialty adhesives and coatings field, and sectors such as automotive, aerospace and defense. It has factories in eight countries, offices in 15, employs about 2,400 worldwide and has annual sales in the $550 million range.
When the U.S. placed the first man on the moon, Lord mountings and isolators were on the craft that took him there.
But visit Lord's two plants in Erie, Pa., and the more-simple origin of the diverse company is visible - a firm founded by patent attorney Hugh C. Lord when he could not find anyone to satisfactorily manufacture his 15 inventions.
Today the Lord Grandview Blvd. facility is a research, development and technical center serving the automotive, industrial and weatherstripping industries. And Lord's first factory, the West 12th Street plant, continues to produce goods, only now, instead of vibration mounts for trolleys, it makes products for the aerospace and defense industries.
``Although Lord has expanded to the far corners of the world, we started in Erie and the area is still home to much of our innovation,'' said Matt Bucklad, elastomer, adhesives and coatings global business director.
Global growth aids U.S.
The genesis of Hugh Lord's inventions was the noise he heard from a passing trolley in 1919. He began looking for a way to bond rubber to metal.
His early ideas led to unique chemical formulations, bonding processes, elastomers, adhesives, coatings, bonded elastomer assemblies and other products, Bucklad said. Hugh's son, Tom, was equally innovative and a sound businessman who took the company global.
Lord is organized into automotive, aerospace and defense, industrial OEM, industrial assembly and components, electronic boards and compounds. It primarily is a large contract product maker but it does have its own line of mechanical goods-made mostly at plants in the U.S.-on the market.
The company also is the leading supplier of elastomeric chemicals and adhesives to the rubber industry, according to Bucklad, Brian Sharp, Lord global automotive director, and K. Andrew Kintz, global market manager for automotive components.
Lord has had an international presence for almost 50 years, so expansion into other countries is nothing new. And in recent years, as the need to service customers globally has increased, Lord has invested heavily in operations outside the U.S.
For instance, in mid-2006, it bought the rubber-to-substrate bonding and rubber-coating business of Dusseldorf, Germany's Henkel K.G. A Lord office also was opened in Neuss, Germany, to support the purchase. The acquired business, which primarily serves automotive and industrial makers of rubber molded and extruded components, will spur further growth in eastern Europe, Bucklad said.
In addition, Lord is constructing another plant in Shanghai, China, for the rubber-to-metal market that will be triple the capacity of its current factory in Shanghai, according to Sharp. Lord has operated in China for 30 years.
The facility will allow the company to boost production capacity of electronic materials, corrosion control offerings and high-performance coatings for the Asian market, he said. The firm also will open a technical center in Shanghai.
But those moves won't impede growth in the U.S., Sharp said, because the new center augments rather than replaces technical centers like the Grandview site.
``Because of the complexities of the value chain and key intermediates that are required in the manufacture of adhesives, Lord will actually continue to grow our business in the U.S. as we expand around the world because many of the key intermediates will be imported to China, India and elsewhere (from the U.S.) for final formulation,'' Bucklad said.
Lord made the decision to invest internationally because it recognized the importance of global growth on its domestic business, Sharp said. That's the prime reason it has beefed up its technical, service and support functions in key regions-to match growth wherever it occurs.
In particular, the transportation sector in Asia is booming, and it's fueling growth in the U.S. and Europe, said Kintz. That's especially true of Lord's Grandview and Cary, N.C., technical centers.
Big but nimble
Bucklad said Lord is an agile company, which is saying something considering its size.
But, Sharp noted, agile and innovative are the perfect description for the company. ``Our size gives us global scale. It also gives us the mindset and determination to think big and that's a key for us because technology is often the linchpin'' in the market.
Companies must have scale to deal in the markets in which Lord operates and to prosper in the technology business, he said. ``The agility comes because we're private. We have the freedom to choose our destiny and we have the determination to remain small'' when dealing with customers.
``We want to be nimble, we want to be agile, we want to be responsive to the market and our customers,'' Sharp said.
``We think we're fast and we think we have an opportunity to be a lot faster. There's a quote in the auto industry: `Long term is next week, short term is today.' That reflects the way we think.''
Lord is a one-stop shop, Sharp said. ``We have the ability to bring the mechanical, chemical and other technologies to bear, based on what the customer needs.''
Despite a sluggish automotive parts economy, the company is holding its own in that sector globally, Kintz said. In fact, it's doing well in just about every segment.
In terms of the U.S., two areas stand out, according to Sharp.
``We're growing in aerospace, which is a large industry for Lord,'' he said.
``The other areas in North America, and the U.S. in particular, that have experienced growth are our new solutions, like MetalJacket, and high-performance coatings, where we're bringing solutions to the marketplace that reduce production costs for our customers making elastomeric products.''
Lord also has prospered in the defense end of its business. However, this is an area company officials say little about, primarily because the majority of its products are deemed secret by the military.
Kintz said Lord has endured 80 years of changing markets and economies because the firm is committed to profitable growth and has confidence in its people, customers and the markets it serves.
``This confidence has afforded us the ability to keep our head up even during daunting times knowing that we will find solutions to challenges and market downturns,'' he said.