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2015 looks to be a critical year for the South Dakota-based manufacturer, as a number of new innovative product developments and overall growth have the company ready to take itself to a new level. Tom Stoebner, Business Development Manager, sits down to talks about the exciting present and future of his company. Steve Engelhardt reports.
It’s been an interesting progression for Raven Engineered Films, who originally began primarily in the agricultural arena, supplying grain and silage covers to local markets in the United States. Today, however, they have evolved their films and covers to appeal to a much more diverse set of customers, with demand pouring in a number of other sectors as well, including the energy, construction, environmental, and industrial markets in North America. “Because of the customizability and quality of our film products, we have been able to not only impact a diverse set of markets, but also cater to a number of specific needs that emerge within them as well,” Stoebner says.
With a manufacturing presence that spans across four locations and totals over 600,000-square-feet in plant space, Raven has not only has the extensive industry experience needed to succeed in today’s fast-changing world, but the material and process capacity to back it up. “We have two facilities in Sioux Falls, S.D., another in Madison, S.D., and then a fourth down south in Midland, Texas,” he says, adding, “Each of our plants contain state-of-the-art equipment, including blown and cast film and sheeting, lamination and coating, conversion capabilities, and a remarkable test and development facility.”
The company’s footprint looks the way it does partly because of their $48 million acquisition of Integra Plastics last November, bringing enhanced fabrication and conversion capabilities to the company. “One of our main focuses at Raven is to always be thinking about the future and where the market is heading,” Stoebner says, adding, “If we see an opportunity that will ultimately benefit us going forward, we will go after it.” But growth through acquisition is only a part of it, as Raven relies on a highly innovative internal operation to continuously provide new solutions for their customers.
In fact, the company has a full-service technology solutions center in Sioux Falls, a critical part of their ability to not only develop new products, but also create custom solutions in a way that no other company like them can. “At Raven, we provide integrated solutions for seamless product development, from conceptual ideas through full-scale production, with the manufacturing capacity to support long-range projections that enable maximum throughput efficiencies,” says Stoebner.
Looking inside, the technology center houses two state-of-the-art pilot extrusion lines and all development is done under an ISO 9001 certified management system. “Quality is key when creating added-value in our products, and we do this by utilizing a wide range of prime raw materials and additives, including polyethylene, ethylene vinyl acetate, ethylene vinyl alcohol, thermoplastic polyolefin, and nylon-based resins,” he says.
The technology center is the source of Raven’s innovation and sustainability, and its worth was proven again most recently w hen the company announced an entire new line of products in May for the energy and environmental markets. “We are excited to introduce our HydraFlex™ Containment Solutions line, which includes several targeted geomembranes designed for specific project attributes,” Stoebner says, adding, “We conducted thorough market analysis through customer experiences to develop this line, and found exactly what our customers need to increase their overall project value.”
There are three products that make up the new HydraFlex™ line: HydraFlex™, HydraFlex™ Pro, and HydraFlex™ Ultra.
The HydraFlex™ Series, or H-Series materials, are co-extruded geomembranes consisting of outer layers of virgin grade linear-low density polyethylene with an inner core of virgin and select reprocessed resins. The membranes are stabilized with carbon black and antioxidants designed as an economical solution for near-to-mid-term applications. “The premium quality of LLDPE contained in the H-Series line offers exceptional project value by providing for ease of welding along with high impact strength and tear resistance,” Stoebner says.
With the HydraFlex™ Pro Series, or HP-Series, customers will receive geomembranes that are co-extruded linear low-density polyethylene developed for applications requiring enhanced flexibility along with a combination of high tensile strength and impact resistance. The additive package in the series includes fine partial carbon black on one side for extremely effective protection from UV radiation and thermal degradation, while the gray color on the opposite side minimizes thermal expansion as well as providing cooler surface characteristics. “The HydraFlex™ Pro is engineered with ultra-low modulus characteristics to resist pinholes and flex cracks during installation,” Stoebner says, continuing, “These elements are critical for the pliability necessary in reliable above-the-ground tank lining systems, as well as earthen pit and pond linings.”
Finally, there’s the HydraFlex™ Ultra Series, or the HU-Series. HU-Series geomembranes are produced with very flexible linear low-density polyethylene resin, in order to provide exceptional elongation, tensile, and impact strengths. Formulated to meet or exceed the extensive requirements of GRI-GM17 Standard Specification for geomembranes, the HU-Series is recommended for use in containment applications requiring excellent outdoor longevity, chemical resistance, and extraordinary durability—including in cold weather environments. “Designed for ultra flexibility, the HU-Series technology allows it to easily conform to uneven surfaces and it performs well in critical applications, including fish-safe requirements for aquaculture and coal ash impoundments capping for the solid waste sector.”
The HydraFlex™ series, with it’s three different variations, looks to be a popular product line for Raven going forward, as their innovative properties and overall quality speak to Raven’s greater commitment to developing value-added and sustainable products that meet and exceed current industry standards. “All of these products are now available in master rolls or large prefabricated one-piece panels,” Stoebner adds, and notes that each and every product in the series “will have been manufactured in a factory-controlled environment at up to 8,000 pounds per panel with a wide sealing-window that allows for easy installation out in the field.”
Between delivering new products on an annual basis, providing custom solutions for customers hailing from a number of different industries, and maintaining a steadfast commitment to high-quality manufacturing, Raven Engineered Films is a company that, despite being around since 1956, is hitting a new stride of success as it continues to progress through 2015. “At the end of the day, our drive is to develop solutions to our customers’ problems, and we feel quite confident that we will be doing that for many years to come, given the product technology and workforce we have here at Raven,” says Stoebner, concluding, “We have a bright future as a company here in North America, and we look forward to meeting new opportunities—wherever they may come from—head on and with the same, uniform commitment we bring to each and every partnership.”