Fiberglass door maker Therma-Tru Corp. of Maumee will expand compression molding operations at its plant in Butler, Ind., over the next two years, and officials also plan to tackle the European market for residential entry and patio doors.
The manufacturer, once privately held, made an unusual move Aug. 10 by opening its own doors to 14 reporters. The event allowed Therma-Tru to unveil its new advanced technology facility in Edgerton, Ohio, and its manufacturing plant in nearby Butler, Ind. Officials said they will be more open to the press under publicly held parent company Fortune Brands Inc. of Lincolnshire, Ill., which bought Therma-Tru in November.
In June, Therma-Tru beefed up its presence in the United Kingdom with the purchase of Sentinel Doors Ltd. of Llantrisant, Wales. Sentinel is focused on the repair and remodel segment of the business. Therma-Tru will expand Sentinel's operations ``right out of the gate,'' officials said, focusing on physical plant expansion.
``It's the platform for Europe,'' said Carl Hedlund, Therma-Tru's president and chief executive officer. ``What we're interested in is, how do we take Therma-Tru technology and help Sentinel expand its marketplace? It's a platform for us to offer more specific products for the rest of Europe. We want to be able to provide more mass-customization for the rest of Europe.''
Hedlund said Therma-Tru has in its plan a four-pronged growth platform. It will grow the entry door core; grow into new products, such as patio doors; grow into new channels, illustrated best in its recently inked agreement with Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse; and grow internationally.
``As we look at some components of this, our goal is to grow organically or acquire,'' he said.
At the facility in Butler, Therma-Tru produces all skins for its international operations. The site also supports residential door plants in Butler and Roland, Okla. Butler is home to an SMC compounding line that Therma-Tru says is one of the largest in the world. Therma-Tru will make and sell more than 2 million doors out of the Butler facility alone in 2004, officials said.
The door segment is facing increased foreign competition. While that creates a better opportunity for category and material conversion, U.S.-based manufacturers will have to stay on their toes.
``Having more people in the game is going to make the category grow faster,'' said Hedlund, who spent 28 years with Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning before joining Therma-Tru about four years ago. ``[But] we have to really sharpen ourselves on, why are we different?''
For Therma-Tru, it's critical to stay on top of technology, Hedlund explained during the tour. The firm pioneered the fiberglass door industry in 1983. The doors mimic wood choices like oak. In some cases, the material even replicates knots found in wood.
``There's a series of technological levels,'' Hedlund explained during the tour. ``It's not a one-size-fits-all approach.''
Alan Campbell, president of the Window and Door Manufacturers Association of Des Plaines, Ill., said doors are growing beyond just being ``slabs of wood.'' Even though it still is a relatively new product, there's a growing acceptance of fiberglass. The association also is seeing door makers increase technology investments.