Hanover, Germany—ContiTech NAFTA, the North American arm of Conti-Tech AG, has plans in the works to expand into new sectors and to broaden its reach into Europe with key product lines.
Based in Akron with 25 production plants spread across North America, the business is looking at moving into the food and beverage industry, Jim Hill, CEO of ContiTech NAFTA and head of its Conveyor Belt Group, said at a recent news conference held in Hanover.
“This sector has seen relatively constant growth and is not as strongly affected by market fluctuations as other industries,” he said. “We are intent on developing a solid strategy for this market. We were not fully represented in this industry previously, but with top quality hoses and hose lines from the ContiTech portfolio, we now will open up a new business opportunity for ourselves.”
In addition, Hill said, the NAFTA business is focusing on the off-highway sector, as are a number of other business units within ContiTech parent Continental AG. In particular, he cited agricultural machinery manufacturers as a good fit for ContiTech's scratch resistant surface materials, electrically conductive fuel hoses and drive belts.
He said the high performance belt “is very resistant to wear and abrasion, completely maintenance free and helps reduce servicing and replacement costs. We did not have such a powerful and innovative belt in our portfolio before Continental came along.”
In addition to its planned moves on North American soil, the company intends to expand its reach into Europe with some of its products – “first and foremost, our Trackman branded rubber crawler tracks,” Hill said. “Extremely heavy equipment and tractor units such as agricultural tractors, combines, transporters and road construction equipment can be fitted with these tracks.”
He said they are a match for any terrain, even under extremely adverse weather conditions, noting that “the closed rubber crawler tracks surround the running gear of tracked vehicles, enabling them to move around safely.”
Compared with tires, according to Hill, the firm's rubber tracks distribute the vehicle weight more evenly across a larger ground surface. Rubber tracks also offer advantages over steel tracks because they are lighter and cause less damage to the ground, he said.
“Above all, they increase driving comfort and improve the driving performance of agricultural and road construction vehicles,” Hill maintained, adding that energy consumption is far lower than tracks made from steel.
ContiTech NAFTA has been developing its range of services and technology, he said, citing the Armorlug technology now used for its rubber crawler tracks. “Several fabric layers embedded in the drive lugs strengthen the material, thus enhancing the product's resistance capability over the long term.”
ContiTech's St. Marys, Ohio, plant produces a comprehensive range of rubber tracks for the original equipment and aftermarket sectors, he said.
Another product Hill believes has potential in Europe is ContiAlert, a cover-wear indicator that appears as a red stripe when the rubber on a conveyor belt has worn to a specific depth and should be replaced.
“ContiAlert is the result of our focus on innovation,” according the executive. “We continue to operate our four research and development centers in North America and a full Conti R&D network in all relevant markets, and ContiAlert is one of those innovative products.”
Relying on innovation
The key to ContiTech NAFTA's present and future success in the US and elsewhere is that it continues “to create individual, sophisticated and tailor-made solutions to generate added value for our customers,” Hill said. “We believe that a single, expert source supplies it all — the product, the system and the service—and we want to lead the way in efficiency, technology, safety and connectivity.”
Thanks to its innovation, it continues to be successful in the variety of sectors it serves, he said, including the automotive industry where more than 17 million vehicles were built in the NAFTA region last year and projections indicate stable growth.
In automotive, “our interior materials and vehicle drive belts in particular are highly sought after by customers in NAFTA,” Hill said. “The trend of new models being brought to market at an ever-faster pace is a positive point for us. Product cycles are shorter than ever; sometimes it is less than three years before the next model is released.”
Because customers require high quality products, Hill said that is where the company focuses its efforts.
“We are widely established with our product portfolio. From drives for wind power stations to conveyor belts for treadmills in the gymnasium or belt conveyors at the supermarket right through luggage conveyors at the airport,” he said. “This is in addition to a wide array of components and parts for passenger cars, trucks, the energy industry, construction and agricultural machinery, the printing industry, and shipping. There is hardly any sector in which ContiTech systems and solutions do not play a part.”
In addition to creating innovative products and finding new sectors to serve, ContiTech NAFTA is in the midst of expanding its Mount Pleasant, Iowa, industrial hose production plant. It launched the estimated $7.2 million expansion project in January in response to growing demand for its hose in the region.
It will add 30,000 square feet to the facility, which has a work force of 200 and, once the expansion is completed, it will likely add another 12 to 14 workers. The addition will include another production line and increase capacity by 20 percent. Construction began late in the first quarter and is expected to be completed by year's end.