WARREN, Pa.—Superior Tire & Rubber Corp. has purchased nine acres and a 15,000-sq.-ft. facility, which it will expand by 50,000 square feet, to significantly bolster its growing operation.
The property is located adjacent to Superior's present complex in Warren, which houses three facilities: its headquarters and manufacturing plant that spans 106,000 square feet; an auxiliary 750-sq.-ft. office used for some engineering and advertising personnel; and an auxiliary production site for assembly operations that spans 4,000 square feet.
It will take up to a year for the designer and manufacturer of solid polyurethane and rubber industrial wear products to complete the 50,000-sq.-ft. addition to the newly acquired facility, President and CEO Hank LeMeur Jr. said, principally because of an extended state approval process.
“Our move will take place in stages over the next 12 to 18 months,” he said. “Our current facilities will continue to be used at capacity.”
The expansion probably will be the first of two. Plans are in place to add another 50,000 square feet to the acquired plant in 2013 or later, if the need arises. The company's growth, which has been steady for the last several years, will determine that, Le-Meur said.
Superior's development laboratories will occupy the first floor of the existing 15,000-sq.-ft building, using about 4,000 square feet of usable space, he said. The remainder will house sales, engineering and technical service staff offices.
The addition is expected to be used mainly for manufacturing that's handled at the firm's present production complex on the adjacent site.
LeMeur said the company has made major urethane mixing equipment pur- chases for three production lines, and acquired five CNC metal-working machines, “probably at prices we will never see again in our lifetime.”
He said the firm will rearrange work cells between the facilities to optimize efficiency, adding that some of the new machinery is operating in the old factory. The actual allocation of specific operations between the existing main plant and the new facility still is being worked out. The expected investment for the purchase and expansion wasn't disclosed.
“The additional room also allows us to add significant capabilities in producing assemblies and systems,” Le-Meur said.
Examples of that are heavy duty shock-absorbing assemblies for all types of industrial equipment and drive wheels, axles and idler wheel systems for agricultural, seismic and utility undercarriage equipment systems.
The manufacturer employs about 200 but “we expect our direct work force to grow at historical levels, which is about 10 percent per year over the longer term,” he said. “We anticipate continuing to add to our technical staff in 2010.”
The firm also produces rubber tires for specialty lines for the material handling aftermarket segment. That sector has strengthened because of a continued reduction in U.S.-based pro- duction, LeMeur said.
“Superior has always been known as the premium domestic supplier of specialty rubber tires and wheels,” he said. “As domestic suppliers have folded or been closed, the ability to respond quickly to surging demand or technical challenges has helped us expand our rubber presence.
“Also, we have developed off-shore partners for certain specific rubber products. These products will always be supported by U.S. production creating value for our OEM customers while ensuring absolute reliability of supply at minimal exchange rate risk.”
Superior's operations personnel have done an excellent job over the past three years in implementing lean practices in manufacturing and other departments, LeMeur said. He expects the new plant will allow the company to become even more cellular in improving the accountability of its production operations.
The most important aspect of the new facility will be an open office environment that allows the sales, engineering and technical service teams to interact more effectively, according to LeMeur. “Voice mail and e-mail are great, but so many opportunities and innovations come out of direct face-to-face conversation. We feel it is necessary to improve our office structure.
“Superior technical excellence has been the core of our company's vision for the past 10 years and this new center is a continuation of that vision.”
He said the company has acquired and built a lot of laboratory, development and testing equipment—currently spread over three buildings—over the last several years. “Our new technical center will allow us to consolidate this and add a customer training facility.”
Despite the poor economy, Superior was able to buy the land and building, plan an immediate expansion, and add equipment because of its strong capital position, LeMeur said. “When the great recession hit, sellers became more reasonable in their expectations and more urgent in their timing.
“Having survived the last 20 years in the rubber industry, we have learned to live with low pricing expectations. The good news was that we could recognize a good deal when we saw it.”