SUWANEE, Ga.—Chiorino U.S.A. is continuing to grow with a new 52,000-sq.-ft. facility it just opened in Suwanee.
When all is said and done, the company will have made an investment of more than $1 million in the new facility, Chiorino U.S.A. President Bert Flieger said at the recent 2018 NIBA convention in Phoenix.
Chiorino U.S.A. will continue to maintain its locations in Newark, N.J., and Dallas, but is installing brand new equipment at the Suwanee location rather than moving equipment from the others, he said.
"We went with this facility because of the growth we're experiencing now, but also as part of our five-year business plan, we want it to be able to be a full stocking, fabrication facility to keep up with demand," Flieger said. "We'll have enough storage to keep more than 300 full-width, full-length slabs of belting in this new facility, and of course the normal fabrication equipment you have in lightweight belting."
The Suwanee facility opened and began fabricating belts in October, and will begin shipping in December, Flieger said.
"It's a huge investment that we're making in the U.S. market," he said. "We feel like we're uniquely positioned to service distribution, the lightweight belting distributors in the U.S. market."
Mexico is on the immediate horizon as well, Flieger said. The company has a small presence there, but will not be adding hires in Mexico or Canada right now.
Flieger said the company is in the first year of its five-year plan, pushing for accelerated investment and development in the first few years, rather than spread throughout.
"The goal is just to get the organization built up, to be in a better position to support the growth that we're anticipating over the five-year period," he said. "We want to invest ahead of the curve, to make sure that we're ready."
The company's strategy includes three main tenets, he said. First, to make certain the company has the inventory customers need. Second is a focus on superior customer service, technical support and responsiveness. Finally, a clear commitment to working with distribution.
The Suwanee facility will serve as the new headquarters of Chiorino U.S.A., which is the stateside presence of Biella, Italy-based Chiorino Group. The site provides the firm 46,000 square feet of warehouse space and 6,000 square feet of office space, Flieger said.
Another part of preparing for its growth goals in the U.S. is investing in new hires. Flieger said the company brought on Bill Hornsby, who brings a marketing and technical background to the team, as vice president of marketing earlier this year.
"We're going to tap into his knowledge of the belting market," Flieger said. "He's a tremendous resource to the organization."
Another key hire was Emily Wright as a human resources manager. Flieger said that though it might not seem like a strategic position, because the company is investing so much in building the organization, Wright is a crucial person in making certain the company recruits and on-boards quality employees. She's also important in managing employee retention programs and performance reviews, which assist in building a strong work force.
"We're really trying to create this exciting new culture, and we have the opportunity to really build a team that's going to fit all of that," Flieger said. "As we grow over the next five years, we're going to continue to invest in those kinds of things."
The company also hired Russ Vaughan as a new operations manager. Vaughan comes from outside the belting industry and has a new perspective to the business, Flieger said.
"He's a workflow, productivity and efficiency guru, and he's brought a fresh look to our operations," he said. "He's taken a lot off of my plate, so that's really helpful."
The company, which has about 40 employees, also has added a technical support person within the customer service team, and an additional customer support person, Flieger said. The sales organization also is receiving investment, with two additional openings that the company is currently recruiting for, with an additional six more planned over the next four years.
Chiorino U.S.A. also has a new enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management system coming online in early 2019, which will help with productivity and efficiency in those areas, Flieger said.
"It'll give us the data, analysis and business intelligence software that we need," he said.
The system collects customer history information, including usage by belt type, industry and product range, Flieger said. It will help the company analyze trends in the market, which will assist in forecasting for inventory management purposes.
"I have a passion for using data to make business decisions, and we don't have great information right now coming out of our existing system, so this is something Bill and myself are pretty passionate about and we're really going to use," he said.
The economy, and many in the lightweight belting business, are having good years, which will result in greater demand over time, he said.
"The difference will be who's able to build the right strategy, the right partnership and execute plans," Flieger said. "For those that do, there's certainly opportunities for market share gains, not just general growth but market share gains. That's what our clear objective is, to become a bigger player in the U.S. market."