10/26/08 — IMPulse says changes will help company weather economic downturn

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IMPulse says changes will help company weather economic downturn

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 26, 2008 2:00 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Downsizing led IMPulse, NC Inc. officials to actively market the company's 134,000-sq.-ft. plant with an eye towards a smaller facility.

Meanwhile, a change in its business focus, combined with the downsizing, is expected not only to help IMPulse weather the current economic downturn, but to grow as well.

For now the company will remain in the building that it has occupied in the Mount Olive Industrial Park since 1998, while sharing it with Triangle Spring, a sister company in The Marmon Group, that is expected to make a $6 million investment and create 102 jobs over the next three years.

Triangle Spring manufactures heavy-duty truck suspension springs.

"The property has been transferred to Triangle Spring because they have a much larger need and we now are in a rent situation through Triangle, but it is all through the Marmon umbrella so it is an internal process," said Jeff Wharton, IMPulse executive vice president and general manager.

"If we grow too big or they grow too big do we build a factory on 22 acres (at the site) or do we locate to a new facility," he said. "I hope we remain in the Wayne County area. The community has been good to us. It is a great community to live in.

He noted that Triangle closed a plant in Mexico to open the one in Mount Olive after the first of the year.

IMPulse will occupy about 45,000 sq. ft. for its operation, the rest will be used by Triangle. It is possible, Wharton said, that the two companies may share some resources such as information technology and labor.

Wharton said that the changes have strengthened IMPulse.

"In this time of turmoil we have a very robust business and we are not having to extend our credit line because we are able to receive an order, manufacture and ship it in a just-in-time manner while not having to carry large inventories and having to finance the work. It is enabling us to survive these times a lot easier than some other businesses.

"We downsized, but that actually made the business stronger, more viable and opened new avenues. It has enabled us to be more competitive."

When IMPulse opened in Mount Olive in 1990 it made the electrical substations that power light rail such as subways and trolleys.

This past year the company downsized and sold the substation division product line to Reuel in Goldsboro.

IMPulse is now focusing its main business on the overhead and mechanical parts for electrified transit systems -- the clamps, fittings, mechanical-type apparatus that suspend electrical wires that allows trains to get power.

The parts are normally cast parts made of copper, bronze or steel.

"We own the patterns, deal with several foundries that cast the parts to IMPulse specifications then we adapt these parts into a variety of assemblies to meet what the customer's needs are," Wharton said. "It's a much faster turnaround (than the substation line)."

Among IMPulse customers is the new trolley system in Charotte, as well as those in San Francisco, Seattle, Salt Lake City, St. Louis, Denver, New Orleans, Dallas, Boston, New York and Richmond, Va.

IMPulse also has the benefit of Ohio Brass' customer base after purchasing it in 2000.

"Since then we have been able to expand not only to service the existing customers base, but to find new customers based on that name recognition and experience," he said. "We are the only U.S. overhead component manufacturer that has a complete product line of parts."

And now the company is looking to expand into the European market.

In October 2000 IMPulse acquired EMC Traction a company based near Milan, Italy that manufactures specialized DC circuit breakers for industrial and transportation applications.

IMPulse and EMC combined generate about $20 million a year in business. This year IMPulse is expected to do $6 million in business and next year between $9 million and $10 million.

"We have been as high as $10 million in just overhead and that is about one-third of the U.S. market of about $30 million," Wharton said. "The market in Europe is over $150 million a year."

And that's where they're looking now.