CLEVELAND—Alttran Corp. has played to its strengths to make it to its 10th anniversary as an independent custom compounder in a field dominated by mega-mixers, according to the firm's president and owner.
While the corporate giants have mandates they must achieve, said David Topliff, smaller-scale Alttran doesn't, and just focuses on customers' needs. The Hudson, Ohio-based supplier is technically oriented, has strong relationships with customers and a solid staff, which has paid off in rapid growth, he said while attending the ACS Rubber Division exhibition in Cleveland.
“Since 2006, our first full year, we've been doing 30 percent growth on average,” he said. The company survived the 2008-09 recession, and the president expects another 10 percent rise in sales for 2015.
Topliff said Alttran's technical forte fills in a gap in the rubber industry created during the past 25-30 years. He said big suppliers used to provide much technical information, but that no longer is the case.
“There's a huge technical void in the rubber industry, and it's going to get worse,” he said. He sees an experience drain as Baby Boomers retire, and often companies have cut technical staff to meet budgetary concerns.
“I see so many companies that get rid of the technical people. You are foregoing your future by doing that—I don't get it,” he said. “To me if you don't know what's going on technically, it's a hard row to hoe.”
Topliff said “we don't do the math like that. Our deal is to make sure our customer is satisfied.” Besides working closely with its clients, Alttran does the same with its suppliers, so it knows what to expect in pricing and availability.
Getting talented younger people into the rubber business is a challenge the industry faces, and he said Alttran has been successful in that regard in the past year. The company added a younger person in sales and two technical staff members to work in the lab, one with a degree in chemical engineering and the other in physics.
Topliff—the one-time president of Polymerics Inc.—knew many people in the business when he founded Alttran, and the company obtained a number of customers because of that, he said. Now the new salesperson is bringing in additional clients, focusing more on local companies. Alttran's customer base generally has been companies east of the Mississippi River.
The mixer completed a $1.5 million expansion last year to accommodate its fast growth, adding 3,000 square feet to its facility. Its addition houses a new black line, while the previous space is devoted to its color line. Topliff said Alttran now is focusing on improving its lab.
The facility sits on a 31/2-acre site, and has plenty of room for further expansion, he said.
Topliff praises Alttran's staff, now numbering more than 30. “We have a very good company, and they are a big reason we are here. Another reason is we have customers who are truly interested in rubber, and we can help them with that.”