SAN ANTONIO (May 20, 2008) — Solideal International S.A. soon will open its first polyurethane products plant in Sri Lanka after achieving success making urethane goods in the U.S.
The company is adding a 5,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility in the country to produce urethane load wheels and casters, which will expand its offerings in Asia and the U.S. Financial details of the project were not disclosed.
Currently the company makes rubber tires, primarily for the industrial market, in Sri Lanka, where it employs about 10,000. The firm´s polyurethane goods, mainly press-on tires and special items, are produced at its only plant in Muscle Shoals, Ala., operated by U.S. subsidiary Solideal U.S.A. Inc., headquartered in Charlotte, N.C.
Jack Straub, general manager and production manager at the U.S. facility and a long-time urethane industry veteran, will be in charge of setting up the factory and ensuring it´s completely operational.
He´ll fly to Sri Lanka some time in June to begin work on the plant and remain there supervising the layout for three or four weeks. Straub also will train employees on the factory´s machinery.
"Then I´ll probably go back again at least once more," he said.
It will be the sixth polyurethane production facility he´s set up in his 43-year career in the business, he noted at the Poly-urethane Manufacturers Association an- nual meeting, held May 4-7 in San Antonio. "And it will probably be the last plant I set up," he said.
Solideal purchased a used automatic processing control machine in the U.S. recently that Straub stripped down and rebuilt, he said. The machine is being shipped to Sri Lanka where he will oversee its installation along with other equipment.
"This is a completely new plant where the company can manufacture polyurethane casters and load wheels," Straub said.
It probably will have a small work force of five or six to begin with, he said.
"They wanted the plant because one of the owners is very interested in urethane products and wanted the company to get more involved with them in Sri Lanka," he said.
Meanwhile, the firm´s Muscle Shoals factory, where about 11 are employed, is doing very well, he said. It currently produces about 300,000 pounds of urethane a year.
The new facility in Sri Lanka won´t impact the Muscle Shoals operation because it will primarily manufacture load wheels, which the Alabama site does not make, according to Straub.
Producing specialized tires for various markets in the U.S. has worked out well for the Sri Lanka-based company.
A number of Solideal´s specialty urethane tires are used to move steel, food and beverages, Straub said. The company caters to just about any distribution operation, he added.
Solideal, which also exports some tires, began manufacturing press-on tires in the U.S. in 2000 because there was a need in the U.S. marketplace, he said.
Straub had a lot to do with creating the Alabama factory. He worked at Trintex Inc. in the late 1990s, heading up production, when he approached Solideal with the idea of creating a manufacturing base in the U.S.
Following a plan put together by Straub in 2000, Solideal set up the SolidThane polyurethane tire division, purchased a 5,000-sq.-ft. building in Muscle Shoals and turned the facility into a manufacturing site.
Solideal, a subsidiary of Belgium-based Solideal International S.A., expanded the factory to 10,000 square feet and added a second shift in 2001.