MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. (Aug. 11, 2009)—Robbins L.L.C. has purchased Biltrite Group's Findlay, Ohio, custom mixing and calendering operation to expand significantly its capacity while giving it an important base in Northwest Ohio.
The deal, scheduled to close Aug. 10, brings a plant with a history of exceptional service and high-quality products into the Robbins fold, said Steve Saucier, president and CEO of Muscle Shoals-based Robbins.
The acquired business has been manufacturing rubber products since its founding as Hercules Rubber Co. in 1952.
Biltrite bought the operation, then called Hercules Tire & Rubber Co., in 2005. The plant currently makes customized rubber compounds used by customers spread throughout North America.
Saucier said the Findlay facility, which spans about 250,000 square feet, has a solid work force of between 60 and 70, which should prove to be a valuable asset to the company as it takes on an expanded customer base. It will become a division of Robbins.
There are no plans to make personnel cuts, but a final determination won't be made until the transition to Robbins from Biltrite is completed, according to Saucier.
“It depends on how it all shakes out. Last year the plant employed approximately 90. So the figure could grow,” depending on when and how much business improves, he said.
“We have every intention of keeping the plant operating,” according to Saucier.
“We're impressed with the work force and we want to utilize their expertise.”
A key benefit to customers, he said, will be the additional technical staff that will be available to help them with compound development.
One move the company will make is the appointment of Ted Nelson as plant manager, according to Derek Hutchison, executive vice president of Robbins.
Nelson had been the technical director of the factory but stepped in as interim manager several months ago after the previous manager moved on, Saucier said.
“Ted brings a tremendous amount of knowledge, technical expertise and customer focus to the Robbins team,” Hutchison said.
The Biltrite Group of companies filed for bankruptcy protection in both Canada and the U.S. in March.
In addition to the Findlay plant, the filing included its Toronto headquarters operation, which was sold July 8 to a management-led group called Infinity Rubber Technology Group.
Robbins had been looking to make an acquisition that it deemed strategic for the last year.
Despite the poor economy, when the Findlay plant came on the market, it was a matter of opportunity, Saucier said.
“Yes, we slumped like everyone else, but we looked past that,” the executive said. “The plant was out there on the market now, and that opportunity might not come again.”
Ohio base a key
The company jumped at the chance to take over what it considered an excellent operation strategically located in Ohio, “where we wanted to have a footprint,” according to Saucier.
Ohio is a major rubber market, he said, and the plant creates an avenue into that state and the rest of the Midwest.
In addition, the acquisition creates greater flexibility for the company, adds a calendering operation, enhances Robbins' purchasing operation and strengthens its global sourcing, he said. “And we have a lot of room to grow and expand at the site. It's centrally located and has a good logistic base.”
The purchase gives the firm three additional mixers, increasing its capacity by 25-30 percent.
Robbins presently has two mixers at its Muscle Shoals plant and three at its Tallapoosa, Ga., facility. “Those are our work horses, but we also have smaller mixers,” Saucier said.
Combined, the mixing capacity at the three facilities is about 400 million pounds annually.
Robbins' customer base also will be expanded significantly with the addition, he said. “It gives us the customers that Biltrite had and each one is an addition to our base.”
The company's “vision is to be the market leader in key strategic markets throughout North America,” said John Truitt, vice president of sales and marketing for Robbins. The acquired operation “has a strong history of consistently delivering innovative compound solutions that mirror our commitment to provide the highest quality value engineered compounds to our business partners.”
With the addition of the Findlay site, Robbins' expanded process offerings include intermeshing and tangential style internal mixers, color and black mixing, straining, calendering, slitting, and extrusion.