Leading U.S. refractory producer increases regional manufacturing capabilities, resulting in new jobs and increased market competitiveness
Nov. 15, 2019 - HarbisonWalker International (HWI), the largest supplier of refractory products and services in North America, celebrated the completion of new capital projects with a ribbon-cutting event at its Fulton Rotary Kiln facility. The most recent work is a $1.9 million renovation investment that converted an 8,500 square-foot warehouse space into a manufacturing facility for making highly specialized powder-silica products primarily used by the foundry industry.
Investments have also occurred at HWI’s nearby Fulton Brick plant. During the past year, the company has funded nearly $1 million in manufacturing equipment improvements designed to increase brick products production. The renovations at each of HWI’s Fulton facilities, totaling $2.9 million, will allow the company to further optimize its manufacturing and capitalize on logistical advantages, such as the facilities’ proximity to customers and raw material suppliers.
“Our investment in Fulton is a reflection of the confidence we have in our people throughout this geographic region,” said Carol Jackson, chairman and CEO at HWI. “Our two facilities here in Callaway County work collaboratively with our two locations in nearby Audrain County, enabling us to be increasingly more competitive in the marketplace. We are pleased that our investments here are resulting in greater efficiencies and additional jobs for the region.”
HWI’s facilities in Fulton employ approximately 70 full-time employees. HWI has hired nearly a dozen new production employees for these facilities during the past month and continues to accept applications to fill plant positions. Overall, HWI expects to increase its workforce in Fulton by more than two dozen over the next 12 months.
Along with the Rotary Kiln facility and the Fulton Brick plant, HWI also operates a plant in Vandalia, Missouri, which manufactures a portfolio of specialty refractory products. Additionally, the company operates a Machine Shop in Mexico, Missouri, that produces proprietary molds for the company’s brick producing facilities. The region is also home to one of HWI’s Value Added Services (VAS) Service Centers and a regional Customer Service Center.
Historically, Callaway County and the surrounding region have been a center of refractory industry activity, based on the proximity of clay materials used in the production of many products. HWI’s different locations in the area originated from its legacy companies. Before renaming in 2015, HWI was ANH Refractories Company. Its family of companies included A.P. Green Refractories Company, North American Refractories Company, and Harbison-Walker Refractories Company.
In early 2017, HWI announced that the Fulton Brick plant was resuming production after curtailing operations in late 2016 due to changing business conditions. “The 2018-2019 investments are designed to help us continuously improve product quality, consistency, and safety while increasing our ability to be nimble in response to changing market demands and conditions,” said Douglas Hall, senior vice president, Integrated Supply Chain at HWI.
“Although we have multiple locations, our unified presence as one company in Missouri reinforces our commitment to reinvigorating operations, integrating assets and realizing product mix efficiencies at our facilities here,” added Hall.
“HWI has a strong focus on people — both our employees and our customers. It is a foundational part of our corporate culture,” noted Jackson. “HWI has been built on a legacy of industry leadership for more than 150 years, and our intent is for our valued employees in this region to continue that legacy.”