MANHEIM, Pa.—In a move that Fenner Precision Polymers said will expand its reach in the coated textile market and aerospace industry, the company has acquired Los Angeles-based Fabri Cote.
Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
According to Fenner Managing Director Jack Krecek, all 25 employees of Fabri Cote will remain with Fenner Precision Polymers, which employs 800 across operations in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, the United Kingdom and Shanghai.
Krecek said Fabri Cote offers an "innovative product line, strong technical design capabilities, and exceptional, long-term customer relationships."
"A couple of things drew us to Fabri Cote and what it could offer," he said. "The primary reason was their industry experience and great customer relationships developed by the president, who is staying on.
"For Fenner, there was a need to grow our capital. We can see Fabri Cote growing much faster than traditional markets, and this just made sense for us."
Fabri Cote President Robert Bacall said his 50-year-old West Coast firm will lean on Fenner's global reach, varied technologies, depth of manufacturing and available growth space.
"We are very excited about joining the Fenner and Michelin team and the tremendous resources they bring that will allow us to grow our current market share," Bacall said.
The partnership will allow Fabri Cote, with its ISO:9001 and AS9100D QMS industry certifications, to gain traction in new markets such as the organic rubber-coated fabric space, Bacall said.
"We have a tremendous coverage of the aerospace industry due to our 50 years in the rubber-coated fabrics business," he said. "Planned added capacity will allow us to pursue not only more business with existing customers, but new customers and applications as well. We enjoy solving problems for our customers so they can gain more business."
Fenner will look to add some equipment at its Pennsylvania and now California locations, although there is little room for warehouse expansion at Fabri Cote's 35,000-sq.-ft. site in Los Angeles, near Alameda, Krecek said.
"He is really cramped for space there," the Fenner executive said. "We can be a resource for him in this capacity."
In turn, the acquisition allows Fenner access to Fabri Cote's knife- or blade-coating process, a way of applying an elastomer to a textile with a metered, angled blade that cuts excess coating to a fine measurement.
"We already have a coated textile line in the U.K., but we run a calender there," Krecek said. "Here in Pennsylvania we do a dip process for coating textiles, and this (knife-coating) brings a third way of treating woven materials. Now we have all three ways covered."
Bacall said knife-coating is used to fabricate parts for the aerospace industry because it allows for greater precision "for coating thinner thicknesses that is crucial for aerospace parts due to tight weight and thickness constraints."
"One of our strengths is performing R&D work for smaller customers as well as much larger customers, who have worked on such high-profile projects as the Space Shuttle," he said.
Although Fenner and Fabri Cote serve many similar industries, including belting (both transmission and conveyor), mass transit, automotive and construction, Fabri Cote gives Fenner a prominent footprint in both commercial and military aviation.
"They certainly give us a greater exposure to aerospace, which is always a growing industry," Krecek said. "And we now have new customers there as well."
Bacall said Fabri Cote's customers cover a wide range of products including hoses, ducting, gaskets, seals, insulation, and fire wall applications, among other coated textiles.
"We can offer rubber-coated fabrics with excellent flame resistance, extreme high and low temperature resistance, and resistance to many fluids," Bacall said.
Fabri Cote's customers include Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed, Northrup, Bombardier, Embraer and Gulfstream, according to Bacall.
Krecek cited a unique silicone seal in commercial airliners that uses a Fabri Cote coated textile.
"This is a critical component for use in -60 and -70 degree environments, in which the product finds itself at 35,000 feet," Krecek said. "Ever wonder how you keep the atmosphere outside and you inside? It's a silicone window seal."
Krecek said market challenges moving forward include supply line concerns with the grounded Boeing 737 Max, after two deadly crashes that killed 346 people.
Boeing has suspended production of the 737 Max and the airliner remains grounded around the world, although American Airlines has said it intends to resume flying the airplane in 2020.
"The 737 Max thing is a challenge and has everybody wound up in the industry right now—that's a problem," Krecek said. "But the 737 Max (situation) is a lot of noise, really. It's definitely a problem for Boeing, but I don't think it's such a big problem for suppliers."
According to Bacall, the 737 Max issues have impacted his customers.
"We remain hopeful that Boeing will be able to resolve the issues in a timely manner," Bacall said. "We also look forward to the 777X airplane as we and many of our customers will be providing parts for that airplane as well."
In addition, the availability of silicone always can affect industry suppliers, Krecek said.
"It seems that is improving, however," Krecek said.