FAIRLAWN, Ohio—Beaver Manufacturing Co. Inc. has removed a commonly used plasticizer from all of its product lines because its customers that serve automotive required that it not be used.
The Mansfield, Ga.-based maker of chemically treated industrial yarns used as reinforcement in hose manufacturing reformulated all of its products without dibutyl phthalate, according to Kevin Finnegan, Beaver's research and development manager. That impacted about 25 percent of the products the firm makes, and the new lines needed changed within about a six-month period.
“We kind of had a short window to work with,” he said. “We made a decision that even though it was just the automotive folks, we decided to remove DBP from all of our products.”
Chuck Senne, vice president of sales, said automotive customers wanted the material removed from products by last February, and Beaver now is in the final stages of the transition to have DBP out of all of its lines. The officials talked about the project at the recent Hose Manufacturers Conference in Fairlawn.
“It was a pretty significant effort by Kevin's group, given the timeline,” Senne said. “The automotive industry pretty much pressed us into action.”
Finnegan said while Beaver had products that didn't contain DBP, in some cases they couldn't be used for certain applications, necessitating the reformulations. The key, he said, was that the new products kept the same adhesion and processing properties.
“We had to develop some testing to mimic processing at our customers' plants,” he said. “We do a lot of aramid products, and aramid processing is a key performance criteria of our products.”
Because of tight deadlines, Finnegan said Beaver was able to get fairly quick responses from customers in terms of new qualifications. “Our trial feedback came pretty quickly,” Finnegan said. “It wasn't as easy as we thought it would be. Processing caught us off guard with some of the non-DBP products. The system has to be stable for us to be able to use it, so having the ability to be able to process the material at our facility was also important. The adhesive has to be stable enough to treat it, and that also was a little more difficult than we expected it to be.”
But once the formulations were changed successfully, he said the transitions have gone smoothly.
Senne said the decision to change all of the products—about half of the lines with DBP served automotive customers—was because the firm was starting to hear similar overtures from some of its industrial customers. He said DBP was starting to show up on a lot of lists of banned chemicals, including California's Prop 65. “With Prop 65, we decided to just go ahead and change these and be done with it.”
Beaver does about 85 percent of its business in North America, with the balance scattered around Europe, South America and Asia. Industrial customers account for about 50 percent of sales, automotive 45 percent, and oil and gas 5 percent, Senne said.
The oil and gas portion would have been 10 percent in mid-2014, but the downturn in that sector has impacted the company, he said. Overall sales were off slightly for the firm's first quarter of its fiscal 2016, but Senne said the firm is pursuing opportunities outside oil and gas to bring sales back to where they were.
Beaver has been making investments, Senne said, in its three core processes—twisting, treating and winding—to modernize the equipment in each. It operates three facilities in Mansfield totaling about 170,000 square feet, and it employs about 150.