HarbisonWalker International Announces Plans for Growth

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Longstanding refractories industry leader announces company transformation through rebuilding, realigning and rebranding

HarbisonWalker International

“Much like the commitment that Pittsburgh has made to position itself for a new generation, we have been recommitting to our people, products and processes to ensure a vibrant future for our employees, customers and the industry.

HarbisonWalker International (HWI) —the largest supplier of refractory products and services in the U.S. with a legacy of more than 150 years—today announced details about how the company is transforming itself and repositioning its brand for aggressive growth. HWI executives addressed ways in which the company is innovating in a mature industry, improving customer experiences and setting goals for increased global competitiveness. The company also unveiled a significant new branding campaign to mark the next era of its evolution.

The announcements were made today at a press briefing during AISTech, the 2016 Iron & Steel Technology Conference and Exposition. The conference is HWI’s steel customers’ top trade industry event and is held in Pittsburgh, its headquarters city.

“Much like the commitment that Pittsburgh has made to position itself for a new generation, we have been recommitting to our people, products and processes to ensure a vibrant future for our employees, customers and the industry,” said Steve Delo, chairman and CEO, HarbisonWalker International. “While transformation of this company is ongoing, the launch of our new external branding is a milestone that marks the right time to tell the story of our progress and plans.”

At the briefing, Delo and Carol Jackson, senior vice-president and general manager at Harbison Walker International, explained how HWI is rebuilding, realigning and rebranding itself to grow within its core industries, while pursuing additional business opportunities adjacent with its core customer base. HWI serves virtually every major industry that requires refractory solutions to protect assets and enhance production, including: iron and steel, aluminum, copper and heavy nonferrous, ferrous foundry, glass, power generation, refineries and petrochemical, chemicals, gasifiers, incineration, cement, pulp and paper, lime, along with other industries including brick ovens and artisans.

Rebuliding HWI
In 2013, the privately held company owned by two asbestos trusts emerged from bankruptcy and its board appointed Stephen Delo as CEO. Since then, a new senior management team has been assembled to combine expertise and best practices from a broad range of industries with the company’s existing depth and breadth of refractories knowledge. Most recently, HWI has announced that Martha Collins, PhD joined the company in May 2016 as chief technology officer.

Rebuilding internally at HWI during the past two years has also included an intense focus on creating a culture of accountability, a talent development process and a future leader pipeline. The company has also made significant investments in business processes and building cross-functional teams to drive innovation and continuous improvement.

“We needed to ensure that we are putting the right people in the right seats for today, and as we are looking ahead to broaden our refractory related offerings,” noted Jackson. “Among almost 2,000 people across our global network of 19 manufacturing plants, 30 global sourcing centers and two technology facilities, we found incredible levels of dedication, expertise, creativity and commitment. Before anything else, we needed to build structures to harness the power of our most valuable asset: our people.”

Realigning HWI
During the past two years, the company has completely transformed its commercial operations to make it easier to provide the best solutions for customers across all industries and geographic locations. This transformation is also positioning the company to innovate and diversify across the industries it serves.

Highlights of realignment initiatives include:

  •     Value-Added Service (VAS) teams that provide on-site management, installation, equipment, inventory management, heating solutions, and testing for customers across all industries.
  •     A Global Projects and Engineering Team specializing in greenfield construction, manufacturing and plant modernization, and servicing advanced engineering needs of existing facilities.
  •     Advanced Technology and Research centers in two different hemispheres that are intensely focused on learning, testing, exploring and innovating. HWI has the largest refractory R&D lab in North America.
  •     Restructuring of its Global Sourcing Centers (formerly Distribution Centers) to allow for quicker delivery and greater product availability.

Jackson explained that HWI is integrating customer input and feedback across all facets of the organization, from its sales, customer service and technical experts, to its Contractor/Installer network, which is one of the largest and most established in the industry.

HWI has also made significant investments to improve environmental, health and safety performance and to incorporate operational and plant improvements that will elevate product quality. Initiatives at plants are already demonstrating improvements in raw material and monolithic process controls. The company also stated that it is increasing capital investments in its manufacturing operations.

Rebranding HWI
In early 2015, the company rebranded to become HarbisonWalker International after extensive market research among employees and customers pointed to high awareness and equity in the HarbisonWalker name. Formerly, known as ANH Refractories Company, its family of companies included longtime industry leaders, A.P. Green Refractories Company, North American Refractories Company, and Harbison-Walker Refractories Company.

“Beyond naming, we utilized the market research to understand what traits about us needed to be reflected in our brand,” said Jackson. “Above all, the brand needs to communicate the promise we are prepared to deliver, every day to our stakeholders, internally and externally.”

Third-party market research indicated that HWI possessed some of the most positive perceptions in the industry. Customers recognized HWI as defenders and champions of their business. Further, they placed tremendous value on the “whatever it takes” attitude that HWI employees bring to work each day.

“’Intensity at work’ represents more than a marketing slogan for us,” said Jackson. “At the center of our products and industry leadership is the intensity each of us brings to work each day. Customers told us that we do anticipate, respond and deliver like no one else; anytime, anywhere; and that our experts understand every inch of the refractory business.”

The company launched its new branding to all employees in early April and next previewed its marketing with its Contractor/Installer Network. The rollout includes an entirely new intranet, website, print and digital trade advertising campaign, tradeshow booth and collateral materials. It has also updated a mobile app for use in the field, and new signage across all locations continues to be put into place.

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About HarbisonWalker International
With more than 150 years of industry leadership, HarbisonWalker International (HWI) is the largest supplier of refractory products and services in the United States. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the company’s international network spans North America, Europe, and Asia, with 19 manufacturing plants, 30 global sourcing centers, and technology facilities in both the United States and China. Serving virtually every major industry that requires refractory solutions to enhance production and protect assets, HWI is consistently recognized for its talented experts, industry firsts, and intensely driven excellence. Visit http://thinkhwi.com

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