Mar-Bal Inc.'s new product line has moved it into new industry spaces and put a stronger focus on the company's proprietary products.
Chagrin Falls-based Mar-Bal, a compounder and thermoset material molder, acquired AlertTile and Detectable Warning Systems near the end of last year.
That means Mar-Bal is now a maker of detectable warning surfaces. Such surfaces, like the raised bumps on the sidewalk before an intersection, signal to the blind and people with visual impairments that they're about to walk into a potentially hazardous area, such as traffic or a grade change.
Mar-Bal sees opportunity for more product development in that space, said president and CEO Scott Balogh, and the company has been adding employees in product management and product engineering to meet anticipated demand.
"We feel that there's a strong future in construction and infrastructure-related use of composites," Balogh said.
Mar-Bal has long made proprietary products in addition to its products for specific customers, but since the acquisition, the company has added a standalone proprietary products group to its business structure. That group includes the detectable warning surface products, but also longstanding products like electrical insulator lines and fire-resistant wastebaskets. Those products previously had been embedded in the relevant industry verticals, but Mar-Bal wanted to put a stronger focus on them, Balogh said.
Mar-Bal employs about 475. It has a plant in Painesville, as well as facilities in Virginia, Missouri and China. The company does not disclose annual revenue.
The company started working with AlertTile in 2017, explained Tony Lignetta, director of proprietary products for Mar-Bal. At the time, that meant bringing all of the company's work under one roof, from the molding to the assembling to the shipping. Prior to that, AlertTile's supply chain was fragmented, Balogh said.
"It was pretty clear to us we could handle everything for them, as well as their distribution," he said.
Soon, the previous owner of AlertTile approached Mar-Bal about acquiring the business outright, Balogh said.
Mar-Bal acquired AlertTile and Detectable Warning Systems, with which AlertTile had previously had a strategic partnership, for an undisclosed price in September 2018. That acquisition expanded Mar-Bal beyond its core electrical, appliance and industrial markets and into the construction and safety markets.
Mar-Bal's detectable warning surface line includes a variety of products, both flexible and rigid. They can be cast in wet concrete or surface-applied, Lignetta said.
The company is looking to grow its portfolio in the space so it can offer an even broader range of products to its customers. For example, Lignetta said the company wants to add a cast-iron detectable warning surface product to its line.
In addition to adding new materials to the tiles, Mar-Bal plans to introduce new designs, Balogh said. The company will also begin offering adjacent products for places such as crosswalks, bus stations and parking decks.
Lignetta said the company sees a lot of demand in this space, in part due to requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, with which new construction must be compliant.
There are different ways to meet ADA specifications, but Lignetta said he thinks the composite tiles Mar-Bal makes have some benefits over bricks or stamped concrete. They're lightweight and durable, and they can be made in any color.
But to grow, he added, Mar-Bal knows it needs to build a stronger network across the country. To that end, Mar-Bal added a warehouse in California to better serve the West Coast. That addition, which is located at one of the company's manufacturing partners, happened in the first quarter of 2019. At the end of the second quarter, the company expanded its warehouse in Virginia. And Lignetta said Mar-Bal is looking for another location, and possibly another partner, to add more warehouse space in the future.
The manufacturing of the new products is taking place at the company's Virginia plant, where it added presses and molds to grow capacity, Balogh said. The new products didn't require any direct investments in Mar-Bal's Ohio plant, where it makes resins and compounds, but that plant is producing higher volumes of products.