AKRON, OHIO — Armed with a new name, new management and plans to open a $7.7 million compounding plant late next year, Matrixx Group has set its sights on doubling sales in the next five years.
The expansion is probably a couple of years overdue, since the Evansville, Ind.-based firm's sales, which stood at $50 million in 1996, jumped 14.8 percent from the previous year and doubled within the last four years.
The firm's production also increased to 97 million pounds in 1996 from 86 million pounds in 1995, according to Keith Rodden, Matrixx's executive vice president of corporate development.
The new plant, to be located in Evansville, will include two new extrusion lines and will add 25 million pounds of capacity, bringing total capacity at the site to 65 million pounds on six lines. Overall, Matrixx operates 11 lines with total annual capacity of 110 million pounds at plants in Evansville, Houston, Nashville, Tenn., and Ashburn, Ga.
One of the new lines will be the company's first twin-screw extrusion line. New equipment will account for $1.8 million of the project's overall cost.
The plant, which will divide its efforts between engineering polymers and commodity polymers, also will create almost 70 new jobs in the next five years, raising the number of Evansville employees to 175.
Formerly known as Replas Inc., the company changed its name in April to reflect its organization as a matrix of companies, Rodden said.
``Our low-cost position is the single thing that sets us apart. We've got one of the lowest cost-conversion rates in the industry,'' Rodden said in a July 25 interview at Plastics News' Akron office. ``We can be very responsive to a custom molder with specific needs whose volume might not be large enough to attract the megacompanies.''
The company's typical customer, according to Rodden, is a custom injection molder quoting on a new job with a new or existing application who wants better performance in a part.
``Our typical customer might want better thermal resistance or increased mechanical properties,'' Rodden said. ``And we can move quickly through product development and convert their needs into real-life products in-hand, typically within a couple of weeks.''
The company has taken a non-traditional approach to growth, as it has maintained eight separate profit centers — the six compounders as well as two distributors — and an overall holding company. This approach, said Rodden, has allowed the firm to stay fairly autonomous and maintain both a flat organizational structure and low overhead.
The 24-year-old firm has a well-traveled past. Company president Raymond Wright founded Complas Industries Inc. in 1973 and launched Replas Inc. two years later. Wright then sold both businesses to Ferro Corp. in 1979 before repurchasing Replas in 1985.
Polypropylene and polycarbonate compounds make up 90 percent of Matrixx's compound production. Its lineup includes filled PP as well as fiberglass-reinforced PP, PC, polyethylene and nylon 6 and 6/6.
The company's fire-retardant and fiberglass-reinforced PP compounds are increasing in popularity and sales, according to Rodden. Recent sales growth has centered on the electrical/electronics market.
Matrixx also is adjusting to increasing application demands in its compounds.
``Customers want the material to handle higher and higher loads and temperatures,'' Rodden said. ``That calls for a higher level of reinforcement and a higher coupling agent.''
Matrixx's technological growth should be helped by the recent hiring of Robert Brinkman, Rodden said. Brinkman, former technology director for M.A. Hanna Engineered Materials in Dyersburg, Tenn., will serve Matrixx in that same capacity.
Rodden's own path to Matrixx, which he joined in January, is somewhat circular. He started with Complas in 1976 and stayed with the company when it was sold to Ferro. He then joined M.A. Hanna Engineered Materials in 1986 and eventually was named that unit's general manager in 1990.
At Matrixx, Rodden's duties include developing new business and expanding company product lines.
``My experience has given me perspective on marketing, technology and acquisition strategy, and that's helped me to understand what our strengths and limitations are,'' Rodden said. ``We have to be realistic. We don't have the brute capacity of the big manufacturers but we can be just as important to our focus group of customers.''