Having a general idea of what Valeo and RR Donnelley do wasn’t good enough.
Cory Hess and Kathy Rudicel, who work for another company in Seymour’s Freeman Field Industrial Park, Kocolene Development Corp., wanted to dig a little deeper and see the operations firsthand.
By participating in Wednesday’s industry tour, they now know more about the automotive lighting Valeo produces and the products RR Donnelley prints.
They also realize how valuable the two industries are not only to Seymour but also beyond the borders of the city.
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“We’ve got business relationships with both Valeo and RR Donnelley, so it’s kind of a good opportunity for us to get a little bit more understanding about what they do. It’s pretty cool to learn the impact that they have on the community,” Hess said.
“Also to see the inside of what exactly goes on in there,” Rudicel said. “I just thought it was a very good opportunity just to see, and it does make you appreciate what those people are doing.”
Both of them were impressed with the automation at the industries.
“I think it’s really cool looking at all of the different lights and things like that in Valeo and what the blue light on the forklift means. You learn a lot,” Hess said.
“It has become a lot more automated than I ever thought it was,” Rudicel said.
Every year, the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce agribusiness committee sponsors a tour, rotating between local industries and agriculture-related businesses.
Nearly 25 people spent about three hours Wednesday morning touring Valeo and RR Donnelley to learn about their histories, what they do and the impact they make.
Established as Sylvania in 1978, the company became Osram Sylvania in 1993 and switched to Valeo Sylvania in 1998 before Valeo exercised an option to buy the Osram side in 2014, said Allen Traylor, site general manager of Valeo.
Valeo operates in 32 countries worldwide and employs 100,900 people at 166 plants, 20 research centers, 38 development centers and 15 distribution platforms.
The company is divided into four major business groups: Comfort and driving assistance systems, powertrain systems, thermal systems and visibility systems.
Valeo in Seymour is a part of the visibility business group and serves as a production site, making headlamps, taillights, interior lighting and some electronics for a variety of car companies, Traylor said.
“We take everything from a plastic pellet and convert it all the way into a headlamp or taillamp,” Traylor said.
He said 5 million headlamps and taillamps were made in Seymour last year, and that number will continue to grow in the coming years.
In the past 21 months, they haven’t missed a shipment, Traylor said.
“That’s what the guys that you see out on the floor, the men and women, they take a lot of pride in that,” he said. “We have wonderful people that work here. They have done a great turnaround and transformation.
“You need to be really proud of what those 1,750 people out there do,” Traylor said. “They are doing good things, and they are setting themselves up to grow for this place, which obviously helps the city of Seymour, so that’s good for all of us.”
Valeo is the second-largest employer in Jackson County with more than 1,750 employees.
“With the growth, right now, as of this minute, we’ve got, between hourly and salary jobs, 100 openings,” Traylor said.
Between the buildings in the industrial park, he said they total 800,000 square feet. The main plant includes a research and development center and a fully accredited laboratory to test products.
American Inline Graphics opened a privately-owned facility in Seymour in 1985, and RR Donnelley acquired the building in November 1992 to be the company’s first acquisition into direct mail, said Chris Booth, who has worked at the Seymour location for 26 years, including the past four as director of operations.
At the time, RR Donnelley was the world’s largest printing company for books, catalogs, magazines, directories and other products.
“When they bought us, there was a lot of synergy there in the sense that we could do all of these component pieces for them that they were already getting from competitors,” Booth said. “We can do inserts and wraps and different things that we can send to them, rather than a competitor sending those in, so it made sense.”
The Seymour plant is one of six RR Donnelley facilities across the United States that does direct mail, Booth said. Expansions in 1994 and 2000 resulted in the building growing to 172,000 square feet, and two presses added in 2005 gave the facility a total of six presses, he said.
The 200-foot-long presses take a 2,000-pound roll of paper and can run up to 1,000 feet per minute, Booth said. At the end of the press, pieces are personalized with a person’s name and address.
Magazine covers and inserts, submailers and direct mail are their main products.
Darrin Hoeppner, a press supervisor, said those are printed based on the customer’s design and specifications.
“We will get basically a line drawing showing the pattern of what they want as far as how it’s going to feel, how it’s going to look,” he said.
Once the final artwork is submitted, it’s set to a template of what the customer wants as a finished piece.
Credit card companies Capital One and Discover are among their top customers, and they also print covers for major magazines.
“Pretty much every industry magazine we’ve got a hand in,” Hoeppner said.
In July 2015, the Seymour plant printed the Vanity Fair magazine cover featuring Caitlyn Jenner. The art files typically are sent electronically, but because it was such a high-profile cover, Booth said someone from the magazine’s design department flew here to hand off the jump drive in person.
“They said that was the fastest-selling magazine ever. They said when it hit the newsstands, it was gone,” Booth said.
In 2006, Seymour was awarded a project to print the census forms for 2010. Hoeppner said the 155 million pieces sent out took 11 million pounds of paper.
Booth said it took a few weeks to put together a production plan to make sure the company could meet the requirements and pull off the project.
“When you think of a project that large, there are probably three or four printers in the world that can pull off a project of that size,” he said.
Having a couple of unique pieces of equipment, including a press that optimally fits the census form, helped the Seymour plant land the project, Booth said.
“That was a huge feather in our cap,” he said, adding that they will be bidding for the next census form printing project for 2020.
The more than 200 employees typically are the busiest this time of year because of the holiday season coming up, Booth said.
“Typically, about August, we really get pretty full where we’re really challenged to try to figure out how we’re going to get it all produced,” he said. “The last several years, we’ve been pretty steady January through July, where before, we used to have a little bit more open time during those periods.”
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Valeo is at 1231 A Ave. North, Seymour. For information, visit valeo.com or call 812-523-5200.
RR Donnelley is at 709 A Ave. East, Seymour, For information, visit rrdonnelley.com or call 812-523-1800.