WOOSTER, Ohio – Seaman Corporation, widely considered to be among the corporate leaders in Wayne County economic development, also finds it wise to keep a vigilant eye on the business climate a half a world away.
As a result, Seaman Corporation was pleased to report to its associates recently that the company had posted its second-best year ever in gross sales. Maintaining profit margin on growing sales, however, is a never-ending struggle that involves every associate.
Founded some 58 years ago, the company is very aware of the Wayne County need for solid corporate citizens. Meanwhile, on the world front, Seaman continues to be the quality leader in the manufacture of industrial fabrics. Among its widely known branded products is FiberTite®, a collection of high-performance roofing systems used globally as well as locally on Wooster High School, Alice Noble Ice Arena, Akron Brass, Wooster Brush, United Titanium, Buehler's and buildings on the College of Wooster campus.
Other branded products include ShelterRite® fabrics used for truck tarps, tents, dock bumpers and architectural structures, and XR® Technology membranes designed to control and contain various material when it is fabricated into liners and baffles. Seaman fabrics also have been selected for many important military applications including tents, fuel tanks and temporary structures.
Seaman Corporation, with a total of over 350 associates, maintains a primary manufacturing facility on Venture Blvd. in Wooster, also the location of its corporate headquarters. The Wooster plant has a mirror-image manufacturing facility in Bristol, Tennessee.
"Profit erosion pressures come from a number of factors including rising raw materials costs and low cost offshore production," said Richard Seaman, president and chief executive officer. "These are challenges that are impacting the industrial fabric industry as a whole."
While many in the fabric industry — and other industries as well — rely on price increases to protect the bottom line, Seaman Corporation initiated a strategy to educate its sales force, develop new products and introduce LeanSigma and other concepts to control costs, improve efficiency and fast-track new products into the marketplace.
The highly competitive industrial fabric market also is under intense pricing pressure as a result of strong global demand for raw materials as well as actual products produced off-shore. Like other companies in Wayne County and throughout America, Seaman Corporation also must cope with escalating operating costs including energy and health care benefits.
As part of its effort to better understand off-shore issues, Seaman and the company's chief operating officer, James Dye, recently completed a fact-finding mission to China.
"Before we went to China, we had gathered a lot of information about the business culture there," said Seaman. "We felt it was critical that we examine our competition in the Pacific Rim area and, at the same time, to explore new business opportunities for our own company."
The results of that mission are being shared with Seaman Corporation's management team as it plots future strategies for the company.
Meanwhile, Seaman Corporation continues to invest in state-of-the-art equipment to stay ahead of the quality and productivity curve. Seaman facilities in Wooster and Bristol have been the beneficiaries of some $20 million in capital investments over the past few years.
"A few years ago, when many companies were cutting back in a slumping economy, we believed it was important to keep on pace with our quality and service commitment to our customers and our prospective customers," said Seaman. "Our investments are paying off. Today, we set the industry standard with our ability to produce volumes of fabric with consistent high quality."
Various coordinated programs also have helped the company significantly reduce scrap and, overall, cut operating costs by over $1 million a year. "Those successes have been absolutely critical to our ability to be cost-competitive in a very intense market," said Seaman.
Now in the first months of a new fiscal year, Seaman Corporation has set its sights high. "We will reach new markets with new products by identifying and targeting high-value end use markets," said Seaman. "We intend to exploit our technology and a wealth of expertise to capitalize on new opportunities."