AKRON OHIO — Compounder A. Schulman Inc. has announced several changes that will affect its Akron production facility.
Fairlawn, Ohio-based Schulman will close three production lines at its Akron plant. Company officials said the lines are underutilized and are the smallest in the facility.
``We looked at how we could use the assets at the facility and decided these lines didn't fit in with our strategic plan,'' Terry Haines, Schulman president and chief executive officer, said by telephone.
The lines — a single-screw extruder, a twin-screw extruder and a continuous mixer — were at least 10 years old and represented less than 10 percent of the Akron plant's annual output of 80 million to 100 million pounds, Haines added. The facility will continue to operate four larger, newer lines.
Closing the lines will result in the layoff of 15 of the company's 190 Akron employees by the end of March. Three salaried positions at the facility already have been eliminated through attrition.
Schulman also said it will transfer most of its color blend business to Akron to enhance the site's profitability. The firm's color blends, which are similar to masterbatch products, and packaging concentrates will be produced on a single line in Akron, Haines said. They had been made at a handful of North America sites.
The company remains committed to Akron, said Haines, who pointed out that Schulman plans to open a research and development center for its olefins business in Akron in July.
The shutdown decision was made more than two months ago and is not connected to a recent announcement that Schulman is one of nine companies whose economic value is being examined by the California Public Employees' Retirement System, Haines said.
The system — the country's largest public pension fund — has more than $128 billion in assets, including more than 400,000 shares of Schulman stock. CalPER indicated that Schulman management had speculated unsuccessfully on resin prices for several years, leading to decreased profit between 1993 and 1996.
Haines denied that the company had speculated in that manner and pointed out that the agency made its decision based on a time when Schulman was having difficulty passing polymer price increases on to automotive customers, which make up half of the company's business. Schulman's more-recent track record is brighter, as its 20 percent increase in profit for fiscal 1997 was the second-best result in its history.
Schulman employs 2,200 worldwide at 13 plants in North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region.
The company reported sales of about $1 billion for fiscal year-end 1997.