VIENNA, Austria—Semperit A.G. Holding's Sempertrans business is moving ahead with plans to close its belting plant in Argenteuil, France, and consolidating the firm's European belt production operation at its large complex in Poland.
Semperit is well-prepared for the consolidation. The Belchatow, Poland, production facility has been expanding its capacity with the addition of new equipment, according to a company spokeswoman. The company invested heavily with the aim of doubling the site's production capacity in two stages, she said.
Since September 2016, capacity at the Belchatow factory—Sempertrans' largest conveyor belt manufacturing complex—has grown by about 50 percent, the spokeswoman said, with the addition of new steel and textile presses and another calender.
Those additions are part of phase one of the project, which is expected to be completed by 2018. The spokeswoman added that belts for the North American market primarily are produced at the Belchatow plant.
The stage was set for the move of production from the Argenteuil facility to the factory in Belchatow on Oct. 13 when management of subsidiary Sempertrans France Belting Technology S.A.S. signed a social plan agreement with representatives of the French employees affected by the Argenteuil factory closure.
Management and the employees had been negotiating since the end of June. About 64 jobs will be impacted by the shutdown.
Once agreement was reached, the pact was submitted to French labor authorities for approval, which was expected on Nov. 10, the spokeswoman said. Results were not available at press time.
Under French law, a social plan for employees is required when a facility is closed. In this case, social measures for employees include, among other things, outplacement assistance, redeployment leave and training, she said.
Sempertrans will move into the implementation stage of the consolidation plan once it gets the go-ahead from French officials. That will include halting production and closing the Argenteuil factory as well as rolling out the employees' social measures, the spokeswoman said.
She said Sempertrans had not determined how long it will take to complete the shutdown of the French facility, but the company currently is setting up a project team to handle all closure activities. That includes making a determination on what to do with the belt production property, which is owned by the firm.
At this point, the spokeswoman added, no decision has been made on the transfer of machinery at the site elsewhere.
Vienna-headquartered Semperit began reviewing ways to improve profitability within its group of companies in April. Sempertrans, like most global heavyweight conveyor belt makers, still is dealing with the impact of a poor mining climate, resulting in dwindling sales over the last few years. The volatility of raw material prices also has caused difficulties in the segment.
Semperit's management board, with the consent of its supervisory board, launched what another spokeswoman said was a thorough analysis of potential alternatives to carry out cost-cutting and restructuring measures at the French production site.
Other Sempertrans plants were not expected to be impacted by the cost-saving moves, she said, other than the facility in Poland, which will continue to expand.
In addition to the plant in Poland, Sempertrans operates a textile belt production site in Roha, India, and a textile and steel belt factory in Taierzhuang, China.
Firm appoints three officers
Semperit, in a separate move, has named three people to new positions within the group, including Markus Keller as the new general manager of its Sempertrans unit.
Keller brings 25 years of industry experience and served as head of technical and operations of Sempertrans since 2011. He began serving in his new position in April.
The firm also appointed Franz-Otto Geesmann as head of operations for its Sempertrans unit and Peter Klaus as head of commercial within Sempertrans. Geesmann previously spent time with companies like RWE, Thyssenkrupp and FLSmidth, while Klaus joins the firm after spending 22 years with ContiTech A.G. and three years with Fenner Dunlop.