FOMBELL, PA. - The vinyl window market cooled a bit last year, as plastics captured a 50 percent share of the North American market. The most trusted industry data has the market at least holding steady through 2001 in terms of total number of vinyl units sold.
If the era of double-digit growth is over, Veka Holding Inc. is ready, officials say. Even with the unpredictable economy, Veka expects to grow, including in the hot Latin American market.
``The [U.S.] market's getting mature,'' said Larry Irwin, Veka's newly appointed vice chairman. ``You can't continue 25 percent to 30 percent growth without diversifying. So we're looking at new avenues, whether it's new markets or new products.''
Veka Holding, a unit of Veka AG of Sendenhorst, Germany, established a U.S. foothold in 1986 with an 18,000-square-foot-Veka Inc. facility in Cranberry, Pa.
Now, with a 600,000-square-foot headquarters in Fombell and a growing Western facility in Reno, Nev., Irwin is limiting his role, stepping down as president and becoming vice chairman of the holding company.
``I wanted to retire fully at 64,'' said 62-year-old Irwin in a July 2 telephone interview. ``A good way to do this would be phasing out.''
Walter Stucky, former executive vice president of both Veka Inc. and Veka West, ascended to the presidency of those two companies, as well as Veka Holding, effective July 1.
This is Stucky's vision: to achieve significant growth by becoming more dominant in the home market and in fencing, decking and foreign markets. Veka plans to add more employees and more equipment, even as other companies are experiencing slower growth.
``We will use new technologies. We will look into partnering even more with customers,'' he predicted in a July 5 telephone interview. ``Between us and our customers, we can be even more successful than in the past.''
The company is just finishing a 55,000-square-foot warehouse expansion for Veka West in Reno, where it will add extrusion capacity next year. Last year the firm added 130,000 square feet in Fombell, investing $15 million. Officials expect to spend the same this year between Veka Inc. and Veka West, Irwin said.
In Fombell, the company also has expanded its fabrication capability, converting an old warehouse into a fabrication shop. That project gave the plant a total of more than 23,000 square feet of fabrication space, up from about 6,000 square feet.
In September the firm celebrated an open house with its move into Mexico and announced a joint venture with Santiago, Chile-based De Vicente Plasticos SA.
Irwin would not disclose the company's investment in Latin American expansions.
Additionally, Veka has expanded its tool and die shop, Stucky said.
``We have tremendous capacity in the die shop,'' he said. ``We'll keep growing there. As we speak, we put new machines in there with new capacity. One of the biggest goals is to eliminate handwork in that part of the business.''
The current capacity is for 150 extrusion dies a year, he said.
``I think we are well equipped and organized,'' Stucky said. ``We have perfected our die technology. We can run more significant output rates.'' When the company introduced new die and downstream extrusion technology in 1995, its profile extrusion rate leaped to 1,000 pounds per hour on a single line, and Stucky said the company has made great progress since that time.
Veka reported $120 million in profile extrusion sales last year, and the company will be up again for 2001, Irwin said.
``It was a soft year last year and this year started out that way, but we're looking for a very good year,'' he said. Veka AG reported $700 million in sales last year.