Rubbermaid Home Products Inc. officials said the state of their business is healthy as they invest $10.2 million to expand production at a plant in Centerville, Iowa.
Some of the machinery will move from a Rubbermaid plant in Winfield, Kan., where it announced a layoff just two weeks ago.
Officials said the Winfield layoff was a regular seasonal move, attributable to the mix of products made in that plant. Those products include insulated products like coolers and jugs, according to human resources Vice President Joe Marotti.
Centerville was chosen as the site for expansion because it has the room for capacity, Marotti said in an Aug. 10 telephone interview.
Rubbermaid Home Products has some excess equipment from the closing of its Goodyear, Ariz., plant - that equipment will be auctioned, though officials did not have details.
Rubbermaid is consolidating to become more efficient, Marotti said.
``All of our competitors have been giving us the death knell for some time now,'' he said. ``Actually, we're pretty healthy.''
In parent Newell Rubbermaid Inc.'s July 28 conference call with analysts, officials emphasized that the firm had too much manufacturing overhead in North America but remained ambiguous about exactly what is included in its restructuring plan. Newell's goal has been to reduce fixed assets and push more of the capital burden onto suppliers.
``It's a work in process now,'' Chief Executive Officer Joe Galli said during that call, with a goal to ``get manufacturing overhead down to an end point that allows us to do what we need to do.''
In addition to Centerville and Winfield, Rubbermaid Home Products operates plants in Greenville, Texas; Jackson, Mo.; Canton, Ohio; and Mississauga, Ontario. In late July, the firm announced its intent to shutter the Goodyear manufacturing site, laying off 260 workers.
But more innovations are coming, officials said, and new products on the horizon will show competitors the company is a housewares leader.
At the Greenville plant, engineers recently developed a patent-pending process to injection mold cedar and resin for an upgrade on Rubbermaid's core product line of Roughneck storage totes. That composite combo is shot through the same Roughneck molds to make totes that have a light cedar scent and natural resistance to insects.
``It worked well through the molding process, and when the cedar was combined with resin, it retained its signature smell,'' said technical manager Brian Dengler in an Aug. 9 news release.
The Greenville site began experimenting with wood as it was looking at the issue of resin inflation, according to a spokeswoman. The firm is finding ways to combine materials as it gets out of low-margin, nonprofitable stock-keeping units, she said.
``We have to take the lead with the best mix of price points, and most importantly of all, innovation,'' she said July 28. Officials with Iowa's Appanoose (County) Economic Development Corp. said the Centerville expansion project is part of Rubbermaid's ongoing effort to maximize the efficiency and productivity of its manufacturing base. The plant will begin injection molding shelving and storage units by late fall.
Rubbermaid will create 20 new positions, said Kay Snyder, marketing manager with the Iowa Department of Economic Development. Part of her department's incentives included investment tax credits, with the company's total award at just over $1 million, Snyder said Aug. 9.
Economic development officials said Rubbermaid employs nearly 500 in Centerville.