Tenax Group, the company that was the first to roll out the orange high density polyethylene mesh fences used around construction sites, is stretching its U.S. production capacity to reach into new markets.
Since the 1980 debut of its hallmark innovation, Tenax has patented polypropylene “geogrids” for stabilizing soil, pioneered the use of “geonets” for drainage, and added to its list of products used for everything from backyard garden trellises to commercial privacy screens to industrial filtration nets and hay bale wraps for farmers.
The company converted a 45,000-square-foot warehouse at its U.S. headquarters in Baltimore to manufacturing space as part of a $4.5 million investment to expand production of lightweight fencing for agricultural, industrial and consumer end markets.
New equipment also was installed recently at the Evergreen, Ala., facility to produce more mid-weight products, which include the geogrids, geo-technical fences and some consumer goods, Tenax Corp. President and CEO Steve Petrides said in a telephone interview.
Tenax Group was founded in Italy in 1960 and advanced the extrusion of tubular netting, Tenax Corp. started out as its U.S. distribution center in 1984 and then got into manufacturing. Tenax Corp. now serves the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Central and South America with specialty products for netting and fencing, pipe protection, construction, agricultural, gardening and DIY applications.
Also, a supporter of the “Made in the USA” movement, Tenax Corp. uses only domestic suppliers for its business.
“In 2013 we began a massive expansion of our lightweight production with our goal being to satisfy 100 percent of the demand from the Americas right here from our two plants in the states,” Petrides said.
“I think traditionally we had relied on Italy's production capacity and their know how to produce these products. As the market has grown and expanded, the lead times were a concern and the amount of money we were spending to import products. Not having control over quality also was an issue. All that is covered by this expansion.”
Petrides would only talk “in broad strokes” about the U.S. expansion, saying the company is starting to penetrate some markets where it has competition.
“We don't want to give away too much about what we're selling and why we have added this capacity,” he said. “On the consumer products and fencing products we really don't have competition so much. It's more on the lightweight and heavy-weight production. Our business model for that is completely different from what the big guys are trying to do. Still, they keep an eye on us nonetheless whenever we're adding capacity.”
Petrides did say the expansion created eight new jobs at the Baltimore plant, which he described as lean by design.
The company president also said Tenax Corp. is less than a year away from bolstering its in-house recycling program, which he expects will make manufacturing jobs there more appealing to young workers.
“We're trying to get to recycling 100 percent in house. It's a big push for us,” Petrides said. “Right now we recycle our polyethylene in house and we outsource the reprocessing of polypropylene but we do buy back 100 percent of what we send out. We're hoping we can in-house that in the next 6-9 months. We will buy the converters and repelletize in line so any of our in-process scrap can be recycled immediately back into the hoppers.”
Green business practices are important to up-and-coming leaders and innovators, who are needed in the industry to fill a skills gap, Petrides said.
“We found through working with a lot of groups in the state and talking to young people that these are things they're passionate about and they make good business sense,” he said. “If we can tie those things together, we can give young engineers that want to go work for Google or save the earth a reason to consider a career in plastics.”
Tenax belongs to the “Make It in Maryland” program, which announced May 12 that the company's Baltimore expansion was completed. A news release says four extruders and one ram stretcher were installed to increase capacity by 20 percent.
“We couldn't be happier to shine a light on the success at Tenax, an important Baltimore-based manufacturer and valued member of the Make It in Maryland program,” said Brian Sweeney, executive director of the Maryland Manufacturing Extension Partnership.