The Röchling plant in South Euclid, Ohio, has a long history, but it isn't done changing yet.
A $4.9 million expansion recently was completed at the facility, giving the composites manufacturer more space for inventory and for future growth.
The Röchling Glastic Composites site in South Euclid is part of the German Röchling Group's industrial division. The group has 90 locations across the globe and employs about 11,500 people. A news release noted that its three divisions had combined annual sales of 2.352 billion euros in 2019.
The facility got its start as Glastic Corp. The commercial fiberglass company had been created in the mid-1940s and moved to South Euclid from Cleveland 70 years ago, said Fred Sanford, Röchling vice president and general manager. It's been part of the community ever since.
Sanford said Glastic had been at the top of its industry at its peak, outright inventing or contributing to the invention of many of the processes still used today in thermoset composites manufacturing. But like many long-standing companies, it's been through ups and downs. And, he said, it was at a particular low point before Röchling acquired it in 2007.
The company's previous ownership had opted to eliminate inventory and focus on a just-in-time approach. That required more manufacturing equipment, which Sanford said hurt the company's "economies of scale."
Sanford likened the South Euclid operation to a "steel mill for fiberglass components." Customers can opt for a variety of colors and performance characteristics, and producing those varieties to order on a daily basis required a lot of equipment.
After acquiring the business, Röchling went back to making products in advance, but the prior increase in equipment left the South Euclid facility without room to store its finished goods properly. The company had to store inventory wherever it could find space in the plant.
"There was no opportunity to grow as we were set up a year ago," Sanford said.
Sanford came to Röchling's South Euclid facility in 2014 as the company was looking to focus more intentionally on its internal processes. It took a while for changes to take hold and lead to growth, but that turn began around 2017, Sanford said. And then it quickly became apparent the facility needed more space to continue that upward trend.
"Without that space, it wasn't possible," Sanford said. "There was a limit to which we could grow."
Röchling approached South Euclid about expanding about two years ago, and the city worked with Cuyahoga County to secure some incentives to make it happen, said South Euclid economic development director Michael Love. The county was able to offer the company a loan, he said, and the city put an eight-year, 50% tax abatement in place.
The facility has been one of the city's longest-tenured businesses, anchoring its "small but mighty industrial and manufacturing corridor."
As part of the expansion, Röchling expects to add at least 26 new employees at the South Euclid facility. Today, it employs about 110.
Essentially, the recent expansion allowed Röchling to better organize the inventory that had been stored throughout the facility, adding about 60,000 square feet of racked warehouse space, Sanford said. The facility had been almost 125,000 square feet before the expansion.
Röchling already is using about 40,000 square feet of the expansion for its existing business, but the rest is available for future growth.
The plant makes composite sheets and profiles for a variety of industries. Its core business has remained steady over the years. That includes products for low- to medium-voltage distribution equipment such as transformers and motors for the commercial and industrial markets, as well as products for electric infrastructure for rapid transit systems. But Sanford said Röchling sees opportunities in new or expanded markets, such as transit, process equipment, construction or ballistic protection panels.
Sanford said Röchling plans to keep investing in the South Euclid facility in the coming years, adding equipment as its growth plan progresses.