SAEGERTOWN, Pa.—Lord Corp.'s largest specialty chemicals, adhesives and coatings manufacturing facility is getting a major upgrade.
The firm disclosed plans to invest $80 million to expand and upgrade operations at its 250,000-sq.-ft. plant in Saegertown. During the next five years, Lord will add 75,000 square feet to the building, which sits on a 67-acre plot and employs 235.
The firm projects to add jobs as business grows during that span, but said it is has not determined an exact number.
"Our customers are growing and we're starting to gain some additional business in adjacent areas we've been targeting," said Doug Lorenz, president of the firm's global performance materials business. "All of that's coming together, so now is the right time for us to make an investment. We want to satisfy our customer needs now, and to be well-positioned to serve them over the next five, 10 years and beyond."
The site produces acrylic, urethane and epoxy adhesives as well as its Chemlok-branded rubber-to-substrate bonding adhesives. Additionally, the plant produces specialty intermediate chemicals and coatings products that are supplied to customers around the world.
The project will bring an overall modernization to the 55-year-old site, doubling capacity through an improved layout and upgraded equipment. Lorenz said the move will take about four years because the firm will continue to run its current operations, causing the transition to take place in multiple stages.
The first phase includes an expanded warehouse, bulk storage and a new building for structural adhesives. The first phase is in progress and projected to be complete in the first quarter of 2019.
"It's really a complex game of dominoes where we have to move certain things around a plant," Lorenz said. "We want to make sure we take every procedure to minimize risk to the employees and to minimize any disruption to customers. At the end of the day, that's our primary concern."
Lorenz cited two main drivers of the firm's growth within automotive, which is the predominant market served at Saegertown, though it does have a healthy presence within general industrial markets. Lightweighting brings different needs for noise, anti-vibration and harshness treatments. The trend away from steel helps Lord two-fold. Some steel fasteners are being directly replaced with adhesives, but the others that aren't require different chemistries to appropriately bond to the vehicle.
The second is electrification and the new thermal management requirements that come with electric engines.
"In the batteries, there's a specific need for thermal management to wick away heat so the batteries last longer and give better range and performance," Lorenz said. "We have some unique chemistries and technologies that help them do that in a way that works very well in the batteries. It also works very well in chargers, inverters and electric motors."
The firm has operated the Saegertown plant since 1962, which began with 15 employees in a 10,000-sq.-ft. building. Staying local was important to Cary, N.C.-based Lord, which employs about 3,000 in 26 countries with 19 manufacturing facilities and 10 research and development centers.
The firm received a property tax abatement on the newly appraised value of the plant, determined in stages as Lord adds value to the facility. Lorenz said Saegertown is about 30 minutes away from its Erie, Pa., location, which houses a lot of Lord's technical development and process scale-up operations. Already having the infrastructure in Saegertown was key.
"Any time you make an investment this large, you have to go through a pretty rigorous process to make sure you make a good decision," Lorenz said. "There was a national site selection process. We looked at a number of states, a number of locations, but at the end of the day this really was a pretty easy decision for us. At front of mind is the quality of employees that we have in Saegertown. We have a lot of folks with years and years of experience who have been doing some wonderful things to make sure our product always works and is always delivered to our customers on time."