RANDOLPH - In an effort to accommodate their company's ever-expanding business, Herman C. Ruhlman Jr. and sons, Jason and Chad, purchased the former Alcoa Closure Systems International building at auction in July.
The Ruhlman family who jointly own Rand Machine Products Inc. in Falconer, and the Spartan Tool & Die facility in Sinclairville, invested in the 93,000-square-foot building in Randolph to increase their company's much-needed manufacturing space.
The building appealed to Ruhlman and his sons because of its close proximity to their main plant in Falconer, and the site also had the features needed by Rand Machine's business including higher bays, ample space and several cranes, and it was already set up for the same type of industry.
Rand Machine Products, in Falconer, recently closed on its purchase of the former Alcoa Closure Systems International building in Randolph. The acquisition of the property will give Rand additional manufacturing and storage space.
Photo by Deb Everts
President and CEO Herman Ruhlman stands in front of the computer control panel of the $2 million CNC mill/turn center at his Falconer facility.
Photo by Deb Everts
Founded in 1949, Ruhlman purchased Rand Machine Products in 1980. The precision machine shop now services the aerospace, defense, transportation, medical, industrial, furniture, oil and gas, and energy industries.
President and CEO Herman Ruhlman said although Rand Machine builds some specialized machinery, most of the company's products fall under the title of "custom contract manufacturing service."
Ruhlman noted that the timing of the auction couldn't have been better because Rand was outgrowing its space and was seeking an additional facility. As luck would have it, the Ruhlman family put in their bid and nobody overbid them.
"I was familiar with the building because I had gone through it on tours and other times. During the last 35 years, we were a major parts supplier for Borden's and ALCOA CSI, but I had no idea that I would ever own the building," he laughed.
The Randolph acquisition has a long industrial history. Borden's Condensed Milk Company originally built the facility as a condensory to process raw milk, in 1907. Afterward, the plant became a tin shop and machine shop, also owned by Borden's. Later it was a Borden/Alcoa can testing plant.
According to Ruhlman, Rand has increased its employees from 45 in 2000, to the current 135. The company has grown a lot in the last few years - in fact, so fast it is running out of room. He explained that as his business grows, so does the need for raw materials, mostly steel, which takes up a lot of space.
Ruhlman said two customers, in particular, have put demands on Rand because of the company's high-quality workmanship. He said the customers want more parts and they want them quickly, but the space at the Falconer facility has been a bit constricting.
To keep up with the demand, the company put on a $4.6 million expansion last October to support a $2 million CNC mill-turn center and CMM machine (for quality control) at the main plant and they've already run out of room. He said the mill-turn center alone is 40 feet long and 15 feet wide by 15 feet high. Two 10-ton cranes are used to handle the parts going into the machine. He added that the CMM machine is also very large and can measure a part that is 20 feet long, 6 feet wide and 5 feet tall.
"We manufacture all kinds of products ranging from shock absorbers for railroad cars to components for natural gas pipelines," he said. "We do a lot of railroad work, including fuel filters for locomotives, and we're getting into a new product that'll be oil filters for locomotives."
According to Ruhlman, the fuel filters weigh nearly 400 pounds and they measure 4 feet long by 2 feet wide and 3 feet high. The oil filters, which they're supposed to start production on by the first of the year, will measure approximately 5 feet long and 2 feet in diameter. He commented that they've built only a couple of prototypes so far, and the company is experimenting with them.
Ruhlman said the work they do involves some rather bulky materials. A lot of the tubing is 20 feet long and up to 14 inches in diameter, which takes up a massive amount of space in their building. The Randolph facility will allow Rand to move some of their stored inventory from the Falconer site.
"Receiving a truckload of material and getting it to a saw for cutting is difficult because we don't have enough cranes and the 14 foot ceiling isn't high enough in either building at the main plant," he said. "The tall bay at the Randolph building has a ceiling of about 20 feet and it also has two 10-ton cranes which will allow us to unload a tractor trailer very easily, so that's a plus for us."
Ruhlman said the paperwork was completed on Aug. 15 and they have recently closed on the sale. Once they have possession of the building, they'll begin moving in September and start planning what they're going to move in.
"Initially, there'll be some sawing operations going on," he explained. "We'll unload a 20 foot long pieces of tubing, which will be cut into short pieces and stored in wire baskets. Then we'll bring the tubing back to our Falconer site to be machined."
According to Ruhlman, there will be both storage and some manufacturing at the Randolph facility. The initial production will involve sawing and weld fabrication. He said they anticipate installing other machinery at the Randolph site, in the future, which will most likely be lathes and milling machines.
Initial plans include approximately six to eight employees at the plant, who are current personnel and will most likely be transferred to the Randolph plant, but Ruhlman said that hasn't been decided for certain.
For more information, visit the company's website at randmachine.com.