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Recent acquisition broadens Apache offerings

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Photo by RPN photo by Mike McNulty Thomas Pientok (left), John Shafer, Connor Deering, Kyle Gingrich, Tom Weisenstine and Mark Benedetti discussed Apache's latest acquisition and some of the firm's other changes at the NIBA conference.

Apache Inc.'s acquisition of Trico Belting & Supply Co. earlier this year has strengthened the company considerably on the lightweight belting end of its operation.

A fabricator and wholesaler, Trico has two facilities, one in Cincinnati and the other in Chicago, "and it's our largest purchase to date," said Thomas E. Pientok, president and CEO of Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Apache.

The acquisition, the fifth Apache has made in five years, gives the company six fabrication operations throughout the U.S.

"We set the stage to buy it with (the implementation of) a new business plan last year when we made the decision to exit the end-user market and focus on distributor, dealer and OEM channels," the executive said.

"That cleared the path for us and gave both Apache and Trico a consistent approach to market."

Bringing Trico into the fold expands Apache's offerings into the lightweight belting sector, which Pientok said is a strong fit for the company. Apache's expertise primarily has been in heavy-duty belts.

"We were weak in lightweight belts," he said at the NIBA—The Belting Association conference, held Sept. 12-15 in San Antonio. "This strengthens us considerably."

Apache's core operation will remain in the heavyweight sector, according to Kyle Gingrich, vice president of operations. He said the company has eliminated redundancies at its six fabrication facilities to create better efficiencies across the board.

Apache also has changed its organizational structure with the purchase of Trico.

Trico's former owner, John Shafer, has joined Apache as its vice president of business development. He is focusing on the development of business plans and relationships to enhance the position of the Apache/Trico business with major accounts, Pientok said.

In addition, he'll assist with sourcing for lightweight belting, searching for acquisition opportunities and serving as a member of the senior executive team.

"It's challenging," Shafer said, "and it should continue to be interesting. If there wasn't a growth opportunity here, I wouldn't have sold Trico or come with this company. I think we can build through this infrastructure."

Mark Benedetti also has assumed the role of operations manager for the firm's Cincinnati facility. He is responsible for production, purchasing, quality, inventory control, and shipping and receiving at the plant.

On the manufacturing side of its business, the company's custom rubber product operation is doing well, said Tom Weisenstine, who as part of the organizational change is the vice president of product management.

"We are looking to grow further on that end this year," especially in the hydropower, transportation, marine and industrial markets, he said.

Employee-owned Apache moved into the manufacturing arena last year when it acquired Seals Unlimited Inc. and the company's 52,000-sq.-ft. production facility in Hillsboro, S.C. It makes gaskets, hydraulic gate seals, rubber extrusions and rubber moldings for the government and private sectors.

On the distribution end, Pientok said because "we clarified our channels with a new business plan last year," new opportunities have surfaced, although in making the decision to exit the end user market, the company lost a little business.

"In the long run, we're on the right path," he said.

"We've been successful in keeping most of our business. We ... will not waver. We're very optimistic; we believe we have a good strategy."

By making the move, Apache now can partner more effectively with industrial distributors, according to Connor Deering, vice president of sales.

"This redefined approach allows both Apache and our distributor customers to leverage our greatest capabilities," he said. "Apache is focused on what we do best with product expertise and can work easily with distributors and the sales network they have in place."

Deering said Apache's sales force has been restructured in all areas from coast to coast, "which allows us to offer customers the full spectrum of belting and selected cut and molded products."