KANSAS CITY, Mo.—Bluegrass Roller Service Inc. plans to expand its rubber roller operation by building a plant adjacent to its existing manufacturing facility in Shelbyville, Ky.
Located about 30 miles east of downtown Louisville, the new factory will span about 10,000 square feet, according to Scott Dixon, vice president and general manager for the producer of rubber-covered rollers for a variety of industries. It will be attached via a breezeway to Bluegrass Roller's 20,000-sq.-ft. production plant in Shelbyville on a 4.5-acre site.
“We expanded to take care of growth,” he said at the Rubber Roller Group 2012 annual meeting, held May 6-8 in Kansas City. “We have grown tremendously since moving to our current facility in 2007. I think the expansion will cover our needs for the next five years. If not, that's a good problem.”
The new facility will give it about 50 percent more space, he estimated, which will be needed as the firm branches out further.
In addition, the building will be climate controlled to allow the company to handle its rubber extrusion and roller building. It also will serve as a storage area for inventoried rubber.
Bluegrass Roller employs about 19 at its current plant. Two of those employees came on board in the last three months, according to Dixon.
The firm also plans to add machinery at its two facilities once the second one is built, he said. Construction of the factory is expected to be complete in October.
“We extrude almost all compounds of rubber and polyurethane,” Dixon said. “We also provide many customers with one-stop shopping by working with a carefully developed network of exceptional suppliers for needs such as new cores, repairs, special non-rubber coatings” and other things.
The firm produces a few specialty products, most either rubber or roller related, including specialty motor mounts and bumpers.
The majority of Bluegrass Roller's business is handled within a 200-mile radius of Louisville, he said, although he added that “we also have a regular route into the Carolinas.”
Bluegrass Roller has a history of steady growth and innovation, Dixon said. It was founded in 1981 as Meisner Roller Co., operating out of a 3,500-sq.-ft. facility.
He joined the firm as a salesman in 1994 and when the owner decided to sell the operation in 1998, Scott Dixon and his father, Art, bought the business, which had four employees at the time. But it slowly began to gain new business and expand its base.
In 1999, the company moved to a 9,000-sq.-ft. factory in Shelbyville where it improved its machinery, technology, software programs and product quality while it increased its capacity regularly. This led to significant sales growth.
By 2007 it had outgrown its plant and expanded again, this time moving to its 20,000-sq.-ft. facility in Shelbyville and it began doing business as Bluegrass Rubber.
The company's roll builder is designed to extrude most types of rubber and the firm can cover rollers up to 40 inches in diameter, 240 inches in length and as heavy as 12,000 pounds. It stocks and works with a broad range of rubber compounds, including natural rubber, EPDM, nitrile, carboxylated nitrile, hydrogenated nitrile, Hypalon, neoprene, urethane and silicone.
Bluegrass Roller is coming off a strong 2011, Dixon said, when sales grew 26 percent.
Part of that growth came after the firm purchased a competitor's roller division. “We also had growth outside of our normal market area,” he said.
Sales were up 20 percent in the first four months of 2012 and the year “is looking very positive,” he said, principally because of strong growth with three or four customers.
“We have all the pieces and people in place (to be successful) this year.”