WOOSTER, Ohio - During a time when many business leaders worry about the economy, or even succumb to the economic impact of aggressive off-shore competition, Seaman Corporation holds the line and continues to move forward.
By the end of this year, in fact, while some textile companies look to foreign workforces to help them remain competitive, Seaman Corporation will wind up an impressive three-year capital investment program at its U.S. plants that will total nearly $20 million.
“We must invest in state-of-the-art technology if we intend to compete effectively worldwide,” said Richard N. Seaman, President. “It’s the only way we can stay ahead. It’s the only way we will go.”
The latest chapter in the dramatic Seaman capital investment program came early this year when the company announced plans to spend $6 million to equip its Bristol, Tennessee, plant with hybrid custom machinery to manufacture the company’s high performance PVC, Elvaloy® and polyurethane coated fabrics. The Bristol equipment will virtually mirror an equipment package that was installed and dedicated almost a year ago in the Wooster, Ohio facilities.
Once all equipment is functioning this year, the two plants will uniquely complement each other's capabilities while nearly quadrupling their previous capacity to produce fabrics for roofing, truck tarps, landfill liners, inflatables, architectural structures and various products for military applications. Those products are marketed under various trade names including FiberTite®, Shelter-Rite®, XR® Technology, Play-Rite™ and more.
“Our investment totaling almost $20 million will enable us to establish a new high level for efficiency, consistency and expediency throughout our entire weaving, knitting and coating operation,” said Mr. Seaman. “Part of that new edge also involves a new ability to produce wider fabrics, up to 100 inches, eliminating the cost and time involved in fabricating several narrower widths for large projects.”
Founded some 56 years ago, Seaman Corporation’s annual revenues stood at around $10 million when, in 1976, Mr. Seaman took the helm of the company founded by his father. This year, he envisions revenues to jump more than 20 percent from the previous year, exceeding $100 million.
“Frankly, we didn’t envision a $20 million capital investment in 2001 when we began to study our current situation,” he said. “At that time, we knew we faced rising costs and pricing pressures from aggressive off-shore competitors. But we also have a loyal group of customers who value the quality of our products. We also had a consistent growth track, and after a long, hard look, we decided we had no choice but to take an aggressive position and invest in the tools we need to increase productivity and control costs, in the end, not only maintaining but also growing the business.”
In making the initial $7 million investment in equipment for the Wooster plant, Seaman Corporation established a relationship with a European company that agreed to manufacture a hot melt calender to custom specifications, effectively revolutionizing the Seaman production expectations. The calender was installed in a 19,000-square-foot addition to the Wooster plant, which was highly lauded by state and local dignitaries during a June 2003 dedication ceremony.
“Our customers, and our prospective customers, were extremely impressed by the consistent quality and speed we could marshal to produce their products,” said Mr. Seaman. “Obviously, that impacted favorably on the spirits of our sales and marketing associates, and our production associates eagerly accepted the new equipment, actually doubling our production capacity by the end of 2003."
“But also during the latter months of 2003, we realized that our new product width and quality advantages, along with opportunities in some newly active markets, were stretching even our new capabilities. As a result, the decision to invest in a nearly identical process for our Bristol plant was, without a doubt, much easier.”
Benefiting from lessons learned during the two-year Wooster acquisition and installation, plus the already established relationship with the Italian company, Seaman associates managed to assemble a one-year timetable to complete the equipment design, production, installation and startup.
“Sharing experiences between the two plants, with nearly identical equipment, is proving advantageous in many ways,” said Mr. Seaman. “We are creating a consistency in product production, regardless of location, which makes it easy for one plant to back up the other. Plus there are synergies in parts, backup equipment, training and in other areas that can be tracked to our bottom line and further help us maintain our competitive edge.”
In total, the investment program is adding some 20,000 square feet to the Wooster plant and 13,000 square feet at Bristol. Two years ago, Seaman Corporation employment stood at 260, growing to 380 in 2004 while expecting to exceed 400 in the near future.
“All of this has been extremely exciting for the company, and, of course, for the communities where our plants are located,” said Mr. Seaman.
“Our company is armed, better than ever before, to serve our customers and to develop and produce new products for future business opportunities. When some textile related manufacturing businesses are actually succumbing to foreign competition and opting to sell out or set up manufacturing overseas, we are committed to buck that trend. Our investments allow us to dig in our heels and sharpen our competitive edge in the global marketplace.
For information, contact Seaman Corporation at 330-262-1111 or toll-free 800-927-8578. Seaman Corporation, 1000 Venture Blvd., Wooster, OH 44691. [email protected]