Suppliers at risk if Lima tank plant closes

October 18, 2012

ST. MARYS — Companies in the supply chain for the Abrams tank program face some of the same risks as the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center should the program be shuttered for several years, officials said Thursday.

Task Force LIMA, a community group that advocates for the Abrams and Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, held its monthly meeting at Veyance Technologies, a key company in the supply chain of the Abrams tank, to highlight the importance of second and third-tier businesses and learn more about the business.

Veyance, owned by Goodyear until the company sold it in 2007, is the country’s sole producer of track for the Abrams. The company also makes track and other parts for military vehicles, agricultural products such as tractor track and other service and industrial parts, such as conveyor belts. It has continuously made military track since its opening in 1939. While the plant had an employee high of more than 2,000 several decades ago, the United Steel Workers plant currently employs about 400. Veyance posts $2 billion in annual revenue and 30 locations around the world with 9,000 employees.

For many, including Keith Deters, plant manager of the JSMC, it was a firsthand look at how the track is made.

“We’re probably one of the biggest rubber companies you’ve never heard of,” said Michael Hoying, business manager for military products.

Veyance is the only fully qualified source for military track in the United States for every combat vehicle made for the Army.

“We manage our supply base. We are here today because we’re a supplier to General Dynamics, to the Army. A key component of that tank is the track. But for us, there’s another whole network of suppliers for us. The risk to us as a result of the risk to you filters down,” Hoying said.

With a break in production, it would take up to five years to requalify a company as a military supplier, Hoying said.

The Pentagon is keeping the Abrams in its long-term plans, but it says it has enough for the near-term and wants to shutter the program for a few years.

General Dynamics, the task force and a large, bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate say the cost to close the program and bring it back up is more than the Army has calculated, and in the meantime would harm the program and national security interests by dismantling the industrial base the builds the tank. They have advocated, and so far won through funding in Congress, a minimal production to keep the line warm.

Veyance Technologies