WINDSOR, Ontario—Coatings manufacturer GBIE has opened a new 64,000-sq.-ft. facility in Windsor that is expected to eventually produce a footprint seven to eight times larger than the company's old plant, located about 25 minutes away.
GBIE's new plant gives it competitive edge in sealing space
The plant opened in November 2022 and is operating at about double the capacity of its old facility within just a couple of weeks, said GBIE President David Bareich, a second-generation company owner. GBIE manufactures and distributes smooth and textured high-performance, durable coatings for a variety of flexible substrates. It originally produced the first water-based coating for use on automotive weatherstrips, branding the original 'Slip-Coat,' invented by Bareich's father, Gerry.
GBIE manufactures numerous high-performance, abrasion-resistant coatings to provide the optimal solution. Its Slip-Coat products can be found in vehicles across the world, including cars made by many North American and European OEMs. The Windsor plant puts it in close proximity to OEMs and Tier 1 and 2 automotive firms located in the Detroit and Ontario markets.
GBIE established a need for expansion when it maximized its production capacity in 2018 and 2019, Bareich said. While the COVID-19 pandemic reduced demand in the short term and delayed the expansion, Bareich is confident that demand will increase to the point that the new facility will hit close to full capacity in the next couple of years.
And while production hasn't quite returned to pre-pandemic levels, Bareich expects that to change. His optimism is buoyed by encouraging revenue in Q3 of 2022.
"The (automotive) chip shortage really had a tough impact on us," Bareich said. "Anything that drags down supply or demand for vehicles can be (a challenge)."
GBIE regularly enjoyed double-digit revenue growth years from 2015-2019, he added.
"We are focused on coatings so it comes down to how much of a surface area of a vehicle we (produce for) and the number of vehicles being made," Bareich said.
Despite the pandemic GBIE moved ahead with plans for the new plant, which included purchasing the building. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed by the privately held company.
Bareich said the new Windsor plant was designed as a "fantasy building" from the start with an emphasis on optimizing workflow and safety. Its massive size leaves room for further expansion and allows for a research and development lab that is three times larger. That can increase the chances of future partnerships and new product development, Bareich said.
Among the various features of the new plant are the ability to double batch size, added flexibility in scheduling and the ability to better meet emergency orders from customers.
Warehousing space, meanwhile, has quadrupled.
Perhaps most notably GBIE invested in automation for packaging and production, Bareich said. GBIE can manufacture coatings ranging from 20 to 5,200 kilograms in weight. A crosslink packaging process allows for up to five times faster production. Bareich is especially proud of the plant's two-level mezzanine that allows liquids to be dropped into a mixing tank using gravity to increase efficiency and production time.
Additionally, GBIE wanted to limit the adverse impact of its immediate environment for its heavy water use so it added a rainwater collection process for cleaning the plant and a dust collection process, which can help reduce the amount of PPE used by employees. He stressed that the reused and treated wastewater is not used to manufacture coatings.
The new plant "comes at an opportune time as we are seeing an increase in demand for high-performance, and sustainable coating solutions," Bareich said. "We are also introducing some fantastic new eco-friendly products developed at GBIE, including water-based primers and cleaners."
While Bareich elected not to release specific employee numbers, he estimated the new plant will require a 50 percent increase in staffing over the next couple of years. This will include the hiring of sales professionals, research and development experts and skilled laborers for other manufacturing roles. GBIE has developed an arrangement with Ontario-based universities such as the University of Waterloo to hire co-op students part time, some of whom likely will receive permanent job offers after graduation.
An increasing number of GBIE's customers demand coated weatherseals intended to reduce noise in EVs, aesthetics and haptics. Its Slip-Coat products are designed for best-in-class abrasion resistance that, when combined with optimal application techniques, ensure that the coating provides the durability and performance that OEMs demand. It remains on weatherstrips for the lifetime of the vehicle, Bareich said.
Most EV owners want to enjoy the experience of driving an electric vehicle, which includes hearing the noises they want to hear, while not hearing incendiary noises from the outside, Bareich said. Since GBIE makes coatings for door seals, sunroof seals and window seals there is significant consumer awareness of the effectiveness of its coatings.
"Unwanted noises are a great detriment for EV drivers, so we need to be best in our class in making reliable products," Bareich said.
By producing similar coatings with different applications and surfaces, GBIE is poised to expand its product base. In addition to coatings, other new products GBIE is considering include cleaning agents, and water-based environmentally sensitive primers rather than solvents. This is of particular interest to customers operating in areas of the world where environmental regulations are particularly tight, Bareich said.
Despite being a smaller company than most of its competitors, GBIE management believes it offers a competitive advantage because it only makes coatings for weatherseals.
"That's our focus now, and for the foreseeable future, that will be our only focus," Bareich said.
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