AURORA, Ohio—Trelleborg Sealing Profiles U.S. Inc. consolidated four buildings into a new 156,250-sq.-ft. facility that serves as the company's American headquarters.
The new Aurora location is the result of more than three years of planning and process, and brings multiple efficiencies to the company's manufacturing capabilities, Managing Director Smith McKee said. Investment details were not disclosed.
"The main driver behind this was first, getting better efficiencies by consolidating all the plants into one, and then, being able to continue to grow," McKee said. "Obviously with more efficient space, we can expand and we can grow, which was a limitation for us in the old buildings."
The building combines manufacturing facilities in Streetsboro, Ohio; Bristol, Ind.; and Aurora, as well as administrative offices, also in Aurora. It now houses manufacturing and warehousing capabilities, along with the business unit's offices, McKee said. It contains 10 rubber and silicone extrusion lines, seven thermoplastic and plastic extrusion lines, a fully climate-controlled finishing room, a cold storage room, a cooling room and quality lab.
As the business unit grew, it was going to have to expand from four sites to five at some point, said Magnus Andersson, president of Trelleborg Sealing Profiles Sweden A.B.
"That didn't make sense," Andersson said. "It made more sense for us to look and move into one site."
The new site streamlined processes, eliminated waste in moving product, improved communication and collaboration between employees and accelerated employee engagement, McKee said.
The benefit to employee communication especially should be noticed, said Lena Sundlof, marketing and communication executive for Trelleborg Sealing Profiles Sweden.
"People are actually in one place and talking together," she said. "Miscommunication happens when you're in different sites. Distance can make conversation a little bit longer. I think that's a huge part as well."
Choosing a location
In the process of deciding where to build the new facility, Trelleborg looked at its footprint in each location, McKee said. As far as manufacturing plants, Trelleborg's Ohio presence was just more than twice the size of its presence in Indiana. So it made more sense to bring Indiana's manufacturing capabilities to Ohio.
"We knew that if we looked too far from Aurora or Streetsboro (Ohio), we were going to lose all of our blue-collar employees," McKee said.
Trelleborg notified its Indiana employees 11 months ahead of time, he said.
"We offered employment to all of our employees in Indiana, knowing that we weren't necessarily going to be able to relocate everyone," McKee said. "They just weren't going to be interested, especially with the economy and unemployment rates."
At the end, one employee from the Bristol facility moved to the new Ohio location, and only stayed for about three weeks before moving back, McKee said. The recreational vehicle business is expanding in Bristol, which allowed some from the Trelleborg plant to find new work quickly.
"It's good for them that they were able to find jobs, but that's why we weren't really able to relocate many of them. And they just didn't want to move too far from home, either. That's where their family is," McKee said.
Keeping as many experienced employees nearby was a driving force in the decision of where to locate the new plant, Andersson said.
"One key criteria for us in selecting the place was to be close to our existing sites here, so we wouldn't lose the competence in the people we have," he said. "Building experience in our people and then having them stay when they are trained is critical for our business."
McKee said the full-time total headcount at the Aurora facility is about 165, and the company is still in the hiring process for several of those positions.
From an equipment standpoint, the new facility is about 80 percent utilized with its current installation, McKee said. The new space will allow for the additional installation of three rubber extrusion lines and one plastic extrusion line without the need to expand the building itself.
He said bringing some of the automotive business from the Bristol facility proved to be an obstacle, as well as setting it up and learning how to run some of those products, especially without the facility's employees moving with them.
"So we had a couple months where we were really trying to figure out that learning curve," he said. "But now we're starting to learn and get much better. I think the biggest benefit so far has been … the employee communication and being able to learn quickly, being able to manage the process and figure out what the next steps are."