CAMBRIDGE, Ohio—For the growing LMI Custom Mixing L.L.C., the process is all about control—control of its formulas for rubber compounds, control of the climate in its facilities and control of its supply line for its often time-sensitive products.
And the recent completion of $17 million in renovations over three phases at the southeastern Ohio plant only has increased that commitment to quality control, said Jim Nixon, general manager at LMI.
"There are not a lot of companies adding that kind of investment into custom mixing," Nixon said during a tour of the 140,000-sq.-ft. plant. "People are either taking capacity away and moving it to Mexico or idling production."
This is not the case at LMI, a joint venture established in 1998 that saw several iterations of ownership and divestment, and which now is owned by Lauren International (55 percent) and Meteor Elastomers Solutions GmbH (45 percent), Nixon said.
The $17 million investment added 60,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space to LMI's existing 80,000 square feet, with renovations taking place between 2015 and 2019. LMI also hopes to add 15 employees to its 105-person work force in the future, Nixon said.
About 18,000 square feet for product shipping and finished goods storage was added in 2015; about 28,000 square feet in raw materials warehouse space was constructed in 2016; and an ultra-modern, additional 12,000 square feet of "people space," as Nixon calls it, came in 2019. The latter encompasses a new fresh market snack bar; cafeteria and break room; locker room; and exercise and training rooms, all of which can improve morale, and, in turn, production.
"The expansion and investment were the direct result of increased demand from an expanding customer base," he said. "The LMI brand has been built around quality and service. Our growth and reputation in the industry support that."
But the piece de resistance for the investment—and certainly the upgrade that already is demonstrating the greatest return—was the addition of a third, $7.2 million mixing line in 2016. This brought LMI up to three fully operational mixing lines and has increased production capacity by 50 percent, Nixon said.
"Being able to say we were able to put in a new mixing line is something I'll never trade for anything," he said.
In 2019, LMI mixed more than 40 million pounds of rubber material, a "staggering output" for a firm of LMI's size, Nixon said, and the result of 15 consecutive years of increased output, by about 1 million pounds year over year. Total capacity at LMI currently is 60 million pounds.
"We leverage our capabilities, including our modern facility, equipment, manufacturing processes, control systems and technical expertise, to provide consistent quality of compounds that are often difficult if not impossible for our competition," Nixon said.
And it is that "consistent quality of compounds" that is a function of control.