GenCorp Inc. is exiting the competitive appliance gasket market and closing two extrusion plants.
The firm said it will close its Evansville, Ind., and Fort Smith, Ark., facilities in about three months. The operations mainly extrude vinyl gaskets for refrigerators, and counted Whirlpool Corp. as their major customer.
However, GenCorp will continue to extrude vinyl automotive sill plates and belt strips for General Motors Corp., a much smaller business than appliances, at an undetermined site.
Company spokeswoman Rosemary Younts said in a telephone interview that GenCorp Plastic Extrusions' sales have fallen as GenCorp lost appliance contracts to competitors. The unit's sales, comprising vinyl appliance and auto extrusions, fell to about $20 million for the year ended Nov. 30, from $29 million a year ago.Last year it posted a loss of about $3 million, and it already has lost about $2 million in the first five months of this fiscal year.
Younts said competition is fierce for appliance gaskets, and customers pressure suppliers to cut prices. She said the major player for the extruded parts is Holm Industries Inc., a Scottsburg, Ind., unit of Standard Products Co. of Dearborn, Mich. Holm and Standard declined comment on whether Holm will try to pick up business GenCorp is leaving.
Whirlpool spokesman Christopher Wise said the appliance major is ``evaluating a variety of options'' on how it will source gaskets now made by GenCorp.
GenCorp will sell appliance-related extrusion machinery and its Fort Smith building, where it eliminated 150 jobs last year. It will relocate three extruders that do automotive-related work to one of five plants in its GenCorp Vehicle Sealing business, which focuses on rubber processing. Vinyl automotive extrusions represent ``a few million dollars'' of Plastic Extrusions' annual sales, Younts said. The Vehicle Sealing unit had sales of $369 million last year.
The Fort Smith and Evansville facilities employ 160 and 80, respectively. Fairlawn, Ohio-based GenCorp said it will focus on core businesses, such as its Specialty Polymers latex unit, decorative and building products and the Space Surveillance unit of Aerojet. The firm recently said it will expand in decoratives by acquiring the commercial wallcovering business of Walker Greenbank plc of Hertford, England.