Scandura’s unique position as it moves into new niches in the conveyor belt industry rests on its century-plus experience – as well as its financial support from the Fenner Group. April Terreri carries the story.
This company plays a major role in each of our lives. However, it is likely that most of us have never heard of the company or the work it does to provide us with creature comforts like heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer, and food for our daily tables. The company is Charlotte, N.C.-headquartered Scandura, the second-largest manufacturer of conveyor belting in North America.
Scandura’s two major business segments include heavyweight conveyor belting used in both underground and above-ground coal mining, quarries and other mines, and in forest-products applications. Its lightweight conveyor belting is used in package handling, food handling and warehousing, and in distribution-center applications.
Scandura is the world’s leading manufacturer of heavy-duty straight-warp, rubber-cover conveyor belting, which is the most durable conveyor belt design available in the industry. The company is the leader in interwoven flame-retardant, anti-static conveyor belting for underground mining applications. It is also a world leader in rubber-ply constructions and is one of only two manufacturers of steel-cord belting in North America.
Begun in 1879 in Scandinavia, Scandura’s rich heritage is renowned throughout the industry. In 1904, the company expanded its operations and opened a manufacturing plant in Paterson, N.J., then another in 1926 in Charlotte. Today, the company operates five ISO-certified manufacturing plants, with a network of more than 100 distributors.
The Scandura name is synonymous with coal operations. In the early 1920s, the company originated the first fire-resistant conveyor belt used in underground coal mining. Today, Scandura’s heavyweight conveyor belting is used primarily in coal mining applications. This belting is also used in conveying coal for power generation plants, wood products in the logging industry and grain and other agricultural products. “We are the quality and service leader in the conveyor belt manufacturing industry for North America,” says Randy Kelley, president and chief executive officer. Heavyweight conveyor belting carries coal from beneath the ground to above-ground scrubbing and coal preparation operations. The coal is then conveyed overland, as much as several miles, for loading and shipping.
“This is a very demanding application,” says Kelley. “Safety is the primary factor because of the high propensity for fires. You are dealing with methane and coal dust underground, so these conveyor belts have to be flame-retardant.” As many who have studied the history of coal mining in this country know, underground coal mine fires in the old days were actually helped by those old conveyor belts, which spread the fires. “Today, most of the flame-retardant and abrasion-resistant properties are achieved through advanced rubber chemistry and the rubber coating we use,” says Kelley.
The underground mines require a very elaborate system of conveyor belting. “It’s not just one belt, but a series of conveyor belts because you have to move the coal through a lot of different tunnels to get it out of the mine,” says Kelley. “So you are talking about tens of thousands of feet of conveyor belting being used in one mine.” Most of these heavyweight conveyor belts are used in the major coal-producing areas of the country, including the West Virginia-Kentucky pocket, the Pennsylvania-Ohio area, the Illinois-Indiana sector and western mines in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
All of the applications using Scandura heavyweight conveyor belting operate in extremely rugged conditions and require belting with exceptional durability and reliability. “Our customers tell us that the quality of Scandura belting is superior in the industry,” says Kelley. “Our objective is to provide the lowest cost-in-use conveyor belt products to all of the industries we serve. Our objective is not to be the cheapest belt, but the highest-quality belt and the highest value-added belt.”
One of the challenges in designing conveyor belting for lightweight applications is that the belting has to be designed against producing excess noise, since these applications tend to be run at very high speeds and can make a lot of noise if it is not designed properly. The belting also has to be able to be cleaned thoroughly for food-handling applications. “You need a product that’s completely inert and one that resists moisture absorption,” explains Kelley. “Our lightweight belts are usually single-ply carcasses, typically coated with a PVC coating.”
Scandura’s primary product in this category is its ATI (advanced technology interwoven) conveyor belting. This product line uses interwoven carcasses with a variety of cover compounds and various cover combinations. The interwoven design resists edge wear and eliminates the possibility of ply separation failure.
Operating a broader manufacturing network than any of its competitors, Scandura leads in product quality and overall customer service. “We stand alone in our ability to provide a top-quality product with timely delivery and excellent service in the field,” says Kelley.
Networking the Product
The company has a network of more than 100 distributors. “Scandura invested a lot of time and energy in developing the best network in the industry, which we consider a competitive advantage,” Kelley says. Value-added distributors provide installation, repairs and other belt accessories such as the conveying equipment itself and idlers, pulleys, scrapers and cleaning equipment.
Scandura employs 460 people and operates five facilities totaling more than 800,000 square feet of space. In addition to the company headquarters in Charlotte, two other operations are located there, including the weaving facility and the facility that manufactures the ATI line of lightweight belting and the PVC-coated belting. Rubber belting is manufactured in the Port Clinton, Ohio, and the Bracebridge, Ontario, facilities. The Toledo, Ohio, facility produces lightweight rubber belting, primarily.
Scandura has always had a policy of continuously upgrading its manufacturing systems to keep the company’s facilities at state-of-the-art levels. “We operate some very large equipment in these belting operations and we have what we believe to be the largest belt press in the world,” says Kelley. “It is a triple-deck press capable of curing 150 feet of belt at a time. We also operate what we believe to be the longest press — a double-deck press that’s 52 feet long.
“With all that huge equipment, there’s a heavy capital investment in this business. But the most valuable assets are the people that make and sell the products and services. Our people are what really set Scandura apart from the rest of the pack. So their health and well-being are as important as any other priorities for the company. This has obvious implications for investment in workplace safety and employee development at all levels of the organization.”
With a sensitive eye toward the environment, Scandura focuses on waste reduction. “We are aggressive not only in eliminating waste at the source, but also at finding suitable uses for products we consider waste,” says Kelley. The company’s rubber trim scrap is used for practical applications such as horse fences to protect horses from getting scraped or cut. This scrap is also used in artificial reefs built with old tires. Kelley explains, “The conveyor belting is used to hold these tires together and help keep them from drifting away.”
With new challenges facing this mature industry, the company nevertheless has its sights firmly set on avenues of new growth. “We see a lot of opportunity for growth through product development and through providing additional services, particularly those that can be accessed through our Web site,” says Kelley. “There are Web-based services we intend to provide to our distributors and our end users that will help them manage their conveyor systems more effectively and more cost-effectively.”
Readers are invited to visit www.scandura.net for a first-hand look. As the conveyor belting industry experiences overcapacity and global consolidation, Scandura is facing these challenges with squared shoulders and an eye for new niches. “We have the strong financial support of the Fenner Group and we plan to take advantage of the consolidation trend by acquiring other belting companies through the help of Fenner,” says Kelley.