Xerium aligns itself to win in future markets

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Xerium aligns itself to win in future markets

March 24, 2014 - 18:27

Xerium CEO Harold Bevis: "Customers want a competitive advantage, not merely also-ran products."

BRUSSELS, Dec. 1, 2013 (PPI Magazine) - The company sells its products and services into many industries including: paper, cardboard, steel, pulp, oil and gas drilling, nonwoven material production, fiber cement, and flexible packaging. If there is a big machine with a conveyor belt system and/or rolls then Xerium has a solution.

Xerium has grown from one small plant making one single product to 28 plants, 3200 employees, and 370 patented products. Xerium is a global leader in its three product categories.

As the company moves forward, it has decided to rebrand, and relabel all its products with the Xerium brand. In an earlier interview with China Pulp & Paper Industry (CPPI, August 2013, Vol 34, No. 15, p. 50-55), Xerium CEO Harold Bevis explained Xerium has been aligning itself to "win" in future markets, by grade and geography.

Bevis notes that even though there will be continued decline in graphic paper grades, other segments such as packaging and tissue will continue to gradually increase global demand for its products by a few percent annually. Therefore, it plans to better align its product offerings to the more solid segments of the industry as well as aligning its manufacturing facilities to be close to its customers for optimized service.

In today's manufacturing landscape, that means Asia. Xerium currently has four facilities in Asia including two in China. Xerium recently announced it is building a fifth plant in Asia and the machinery has already been ordered. It's not only geography that will spur Xerium's growth, Bevis notes that technology plays a key role. In the interview with CPPI, Bevis said, "The majority of Xerium's intellectual capital is based upon optimizing the total operating cost per machine hour for its customers. Generally, the optimization categories include machine speed, product quality, energy usage, water usage, chemical usage, and raw materials costs. This is a core tenet of our R&D strategy and our innovation team, which is one of the largest in the world. Our customers count on us to continually innovate so that they can continuously improve."

With three R&D centers, Bevis adds that the company has a "standing product advancement agenda". Evaluations are done a few times per year and adjustments made as necessary. He notes that invention is not an easy objective to set firm timelines to and that it requires patience, review, field trials, investment and calculated ramp-ups.

Bevis also provided many other insights into Xerium's business during his interview with PPI.

PPI: Why is Xerium doing the rebranding now?

Bevis: We want to be a simple company to do business with in every region of the world. Most of our customers today buy more than one product or service, so now is the ideal time to move forward with a single global brand to provide better clarity to our customers and build the brand equity of the Xerium name. Forging ahead as exclusively Xerium, streamlines a host of processes both internally and externally, and strengthens our image on a global scale.

In your research, does the industry recognize the Xerium name and does it associate Xerium with the familiar brands such as Stowe, Weavexx, and Huyck.Wangner?

Yes, the industry does recognize the Xerium name, but since we never made an official corporate-wide switch to a unified brand name, customers and suppliers still reference the legacy brands. Making the switch now only strengthens our position as a leader in PMC and roll technology.

With producers cutting back on technical staff, more and more, they rely on suppliers to provide the solutions to their problems. In terms of after sales service, what does Xerium offer, both inside and outside the mill?

Our service and repair business continues to grow, indicating a shift by our customers to perform services externally versus internally. In response, we began implementing an expansion of roll repair and mechanical services capacity at several of our rolls service centers earlier this year.

Do you believe that this was bound to happen, that as machinery became more sophisticated, it would have been impossible for a producer to keep up? Using the analogy of the modern car; that compared with 20-30 years ago, no one can fix a modern car themselves because of the automation/sophistication of the modern engine.

We believe there is a general secular shift to outsource these services to companies having unique combinations of expertise and experience for greater efficiency. We have positioned Xerium precisely to deliver these services which add significant value to our customer relationships. In addition to being their primary source for PMC, roll covers, and spreader rolls, Xerium is considered to be the industry's one-stop-shop for roll repair, maintenance, and mechanical services.

What do you see as emerging trends in the industry; what are customers asking for, and how is Xerium responding?

Customers want a competitive advantage, not merely also-ran products and vendors. They want partners to dig deep into the technical challenges and solve problems as an extension of their own teams. That's where we excel, we dig deeper, and through our exclusive product technology and modeling tools, we help customers get the most from their assets. We view every single order as a custom order. Xerium is focused on being the lowest total cost solution for machine operation. We engineer our products specifically to deliver the lowest total life cycle costs through our ValueResults platform. Our approach is providing unprecedented results in maximizing the economic performance of paper machines.

Where does Xerium see growth and how is it preparing for that?

Asia is obviously a growth market for all our products and services. Just recently we began implementing a 350+-ton press felt expansion in multiple countries that will generate future sales growth for us as well. Xerium also has significant businesses in markets other than paper and these markets are all growing -- with non-woven materials and building materials being two of the biggest.