Plastomer Corp. is in talks to forge a partnership with other fabricators in North and South America.
The goal is clear: Plastomer wants to gain additional fabrication centers to meet customer needs in Canada, Mexico and South America. But the method is uncertain. Plastomer could forge cooperative agreements or joint ventures, or it could choose the acquisition route, said David Baughman, executive vice president of the urethane foam producer and die-cutter.
``Within 12 months we'd like to have a solid footing in at least one of those areas, a fabrication center, and perhaps more than one,'' he said.
Should it choose to buy another fabricator, obtaining credit at a time when banks and investors are even more pessimistic than usual about the automotive industry will not be an issue for the private company, Baughman said.
``Fortunately, we've operated our business on the basis of pay as you go. We have no outstanding loans of any consequence.''
Livonia-based Plastomer recently won several million dollars' worth of business for both its primary product - die-cut urethane foam gaskets - and its new side business, recycled urethane foam acoustic barriers. Included in that is production Plastomer will take over from com- petitors, Baughman said. The firm will begin production on most of those contracts within the next couple months, with the rest coming online by the end of 2004.
The gaskets are used for air and water seals in the instrument panel and heater/air-conditioning units, and the newer acoustic barriers made of Plastomer's recycled urethane foam, or Fibrethane, in instrument panels, door panels and under carpeting.
Plastomer does business directly or indirectly through a Tier 1 supplier with all domestic automakers and now is forging a relationship with Nissan Motor Corp. Its ability to make its own urethane foam and now to recycle its adhesive-backed scrap sets it apart, Baughman said.
Last year Plastomer began recycling its adhesive-backed urethane foam after developing the technology with an undisclosed party, Baughman said. The company and its competitors all use recycled urethane foam, but traditionally it's been chopped up, heat-formed sheet made from the foam alone, not the adhesive-backed type that typically gums up grinding equipment, he said.