Rubber additives maker Flow Polymers LLC might be a relative newcomer to the world of plastics, but the firm is making up for lost time with plans to add a second production line for its SureFlo plastic additives by the end of 2012.
SureFlo can be combined with resins, compounds and regrind material and can be used in injection molding, extrusion and thermoforming, global plastics market business manager John Jungjohann said in a recent interview at the firm's Cleveland headquarters.
To date, the material — available as a dry blend, but also meltable — has been used in resins including polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, ABS and nylon. It first was commercialized in 2009, shortly after being acquired from a supplier to Flow's rubber businesses. Flow officials declined to identify the seller, and described SureFlo as “a proprietary mix of hydrocarbon resins.”
SureFlo can increase flow and line speed, and allow different resins to be reprocessed together, officials said.
Growth in the product line has led Flow Polymers to buy additional extrusion equipment, which will be up and running by the end of next year. The new line will double the firm's current SureFlo capacity of 50 million pounds per year.
A need for more elbow room is prompting Flow to lease an 80,000-square-foot building near its existing location. Rubber dispersion work will be moved to the new site to make more room for SureFlo production.
Flow's Cleveland plant runs a 24/7 production schedule. The firm also operates a smaller, 30-employee plant in Stratford, Conn., that does rubber-based work.
The 95-employee Cleveland plant is a well-maintained facility used to manufacture torpedoes during World War II. It is located in an industrial area of Cleveland's east side.
Flow Polymers' main products, manufactured on several lines there, are rubber additives and dispersions sold for use in tire inner liners and similar products.
Rubber additives and dispersions had been Flow's core business since its founding in 1984 by Cleveland entrepreneur Dan Moore. At one point, the 100,000-square-foot plant housed five other Moore-owned businesses, as well as Flow Polymers, according to President and CEO Mike Ivany.
Late last year, Moore's Dan T. Moore Co. Inc. sold a stake of about 75 percent in Flow Polymers for an undisclosed price to Geneva Glen Capital LLC, a Chicago private equity firm. Ivany, Jungjohann and other senior managers own the remainder of the firm.
Ivany has been with Flow Polymers since 2000, joining it after working for a rubber dispersion firm in the area, and in the tire industry. Jungjohann joined Flow last year after many years in the plastics market, including stints with resin distributors M. Holland Co. and Entec Polymers LLC, and materials producer Huntsman Corp.
Officials with Flow declined to provide sales. But when the Geneva Glen deal was announced, Ivany said Flow's annual sales were between $50 million and $100 million. Officials recently said that sales in the rubber-based business have averaged 14 percent growth annually for the last 10 years.
More than half of Flow's rubber-based sales come from outside of North America.
The possibility of opening a plant in Asia has been discussed, Ivany said.
Even as it expands in plastic additives, Flow has no interest in doing its own compounding work, which “would take time away from what we do well,” he said.
In spite of the recent change in ownership, Ivany said he and other company executives don't feel increased pressure to grow the business.
“We looked at a number of different offers,” he said of the sale process. “We laid out our growth plans, and Geneva Glen had the right mix of what we were looking for.
“This was a natural time for us to be entering the marketplace. There were a lot of opportunities available,” he said.