Merger Makes Area A World Leader In Separator Technology

Posted: September 24, 1989

With the joining of two corporate giants, Warminster will be at the forefront of separator technology.

Warminster is now the North American headquarters for the newly formed Sharples/Alfa Laval Separator Co., officially formed nine months ago when the Stockholm-based Alfa Laval Group purchased the Warminster-based Sharples Separator Co.

Separator technology is based on the principal of centrifugal force. Its applications are used in everything from the treatment of municipal waste to the production of beer. Those applications are spin-offs of the original separator technology devised in the late 1800s and used in the dairy industry to produce cream.

That deal in which Alfa Laval purchased all 22 Sharples facilities worldwide for $100 million, was formally announced at a press conference Tuesday at the Warminster plant, at 955 Mearns Rd.

The newly formed group invited all of the employees of the Sharples plant to a luncheon which, because of the heavy rains, was moved from a tent to the production floor inside the plant.

Alfa Laval Group President and CEO Lars Kylberg told the crowd that "in business there is no prize for second place," and that the new company is intent on becoming a world leader in centrifuge technology.

John Zurzola, a maintenance electrician and 15-year veteran of the plant, said the merging of the two companies was welcome news to employees at the plant.

"We're happy that an outfit (Alfa Laval) in the separator business, and a quality outfit, is buying Sharples," Zurzola said.

Sharples' parent company, Pennwalt Corp., sold Sharples to avoid a hostile takeover bid. Zurzola said that some of the employees at the plant in Warminster were "afraid of being turned into a warehouse."

Some employees, said stockroom attendant Gerald W. Moore, who has been there five years, are still unsure about the effect of the buyout. "It's talked about positively and negatively," said Moore. "But I think the new regime has a better idea of where they want this company to go."

Claes Arnegren, pesident of Sharples/Alfa Laval said that the new firm is ''combining at one location the strengths of Sharples Inc., the world's leading supplier of decanter centrifuges, and Alfa Laval, the leader in disk- type separators."

Alfa Laval Separator Co. has offered approximately 140 employees at its Fort Lee, N.J., and Poughkeepsie, N.Y., sites the chance to relocate to Warminster. That will boost employment at the Warminster plant to 700, and will, according to Arengran, increase employment opportunities in the area.

Furthermore, the 300,000-square-foot Warminster plant, located at 955 Mearns Rd., will undergo a $6 million facelift that will include a new cafeteria, a gymnasium, and the remodeling of the production floor.

Though the two centrifuge-producing giants make similar products, they hold large shares of different markets.

When separator technology was in its infant stage in the late 1800s, the groups that would someday become Sharples and Alfa Laval were in competition.

Sharples, formed in 1889, began with the production of cream separators at the rate of about 100,000 machines per year.

Gustaf De Laval was producing one million similar machines each year in Sweden. Laval sued Sharples for patent infringement but lost.

Sharples is the world's largest manufacturer of decanter centrifuges used heavily in the treatment of municipal waste. The machines remove water from the semi-refined waste and leave a byproduct called sludge.

Alfa Laval is a leading supplier of disc separators used for, among other things, purifying oil. The U.S. Navy is a major user of that technology.

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The Conshohocken Business and Professional Women's Club will hold a meeting tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at the Chateau Granieri on Ridge Pike in Conshohocken.

Addressing the issue of pay equity will be the program's guest speaker Joan Nikelsky, president of the Women's Alliance for Job Equity.

For more information, call 825-4254 or 825-3842.

The Greater Warminster Chamber of Commerce will hold its next meeting at noon Wednesday, at Lu Lu Wellington's, 355 Old York Rd. The savings and loan crisis will be discussed by guest speaker J. Elwood Kirk, president of Willow Grove Federal Savings & Loan Association.

For more information, call 672-6633.

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