PHOENIX—Forbo Siegling L.L.C. has become a leader in the ever-changing belting marketplace because it makes investments to upgrade its operations and adds new technology on a regular basis, according to two of the firm's top officials.
The reason is simple: those that don't won't be running ahead of or with the pack in the belting industry for very long, said Forbo Siegling President Wayne Hoffman and Matthias Huenerwadel, group executive vice president of movement systems for Forbo International S.A.
Because it makes consistent improvements and adjustments, Huntersville, N.C.-based Forbo Siegling's light- and medium-weight offerings, produced at its two plants in North Carolina, have been selling well across the board since the latter part of 2009.
“We're clearly above last year in terms of sales, thanks to new initiatives,” Hoffman said at the annual NIBA conference in Phoenix.
Hoffman said Forbo Siegling has spent millions upgrading its facilities in North Carolina. And that's paying off.
In fact, the firm's production crew at its Huntersville site, where urethane belts for agriculture and baggage handling are made, has been working around the clock seven days a week since the fourth quarter of last year.
Forbo Siegling's Trantex, N.C., factory, where medium-weight belts are produced, also has been busy for the last year and machinery at the factory has been steadily upgraded for improved quality, Hoffman said.
Sales rebounded nicely from the 2009 recession, he said, and exports from both facilities to Asia increased.
The company's mid-weight belts are particularly popular in Europe and Asia, said Huenerwadel, who had flown to the NIBA conference from Lindenstrasse, Sweden, where Forbo Siegling's parent is headquartered.
Forbo Siegling also introduced a belt in the U.S. last year—the Ampmiser, used for luggage handling—that Hoffman said saves 40 percent in energy costs. The belt is rapidly catching on, because airports have a good reason to save money on the baggage end of their businesses, he said.
“This is technology we can apply to all our belts,” he said, and the company constantly is adding products developed by its U.S. research and development center. It also develops numerous lightweight belts at its plants in Asia and Europe.
All development on its mid-weight belts is handled in the U.S., while innovations on lightweight belting are done in the Americas, Asia and Europe, Huenerwadel said.
Besides Forbo Siegling's plants in Charlotte, Forbo International operates two facilities in the Asia-Pacific region, a factory in Germany, another in Switzerland and a fourth in Brazil. All make lightweight belts.
“We try to optimize our plants as a network,” he said. “The U.S. is by far the largest single market for lightweight and mid-weight belting. And we feel we have more opportunities in the export market.”
Last year was a difficult period for not only manufacturing in the U.S. but overseas as well, he said. Almost all countries are recovering, he said.
“China and Japan are doing very well; Germany recovered much better than people thought. But we still haven't hit our record 2008 figures yet. Hopefully this will continue,” Huenerwadel said.