Custom mixing companies are making the most of a year of strong growth, pushing for expansion and picking up work from producers who are doing less mixing in-house.
"2017 was a record year for us, I think we were up over 20 percent," Alttran President Dave Topliff said. "We've been growing, we've been adding new employees, we're reaching out so there's more opportunity."
Alttran, based in Hudson, Ohio, added new equipment with an investment of at least $250,000 last year to add testing capabilities, he said in a previous interview. The company's increase comes after multiple years of 20-25 percent growth on average, with a few slower years in between. With that kind of backing, Alttran will be looking to put more investment on the technical side of the rubber business, he said.
For Pinnacle Elastomeric Technology of Lula, Ga., 2017 was a comeback year from a sluggish economy from 2015-16, President Bob Rathbun said.
As a producer of high-performance elastomers mainly for the oil and gas field, Pinnacle has a niche role in the wider rubber market, but saw solid growth as the economy recovered, Rathbun said.
"Even though the price of oil was down a bit, I think they were still producing as much gas as they had in the past," Rathbun said. "But '17 was a bounce-back year, and '18 is off to a great start. It's really encouraging for us."
Companies are using that inspiration to build or upgrade with modern, energy-efficient, clean and climate-controlled facilities, said Jim Nixon, general manager for LMI Custom Mixing in Cambridge, Ohio. That includes modernizing equipment, and looking into automation and control systems, as well as lean manufacturing processes in manufacturing compounding and mixing techniques.
Though custom mixing isn't a major focus for Northstar Elastomers as a producer of high-viscosity compounds without the use of solvents, the last year brought an uptick in prospects asking about custom mixing work, said Jim Judson, who works in sales for the firm. Some of those jobs followed a trend of streamlining parts of the production process without using in-house resources.