Originally created 05/29/99

Demand spares workers



An unexpected upswing in the ceramic fiber business saved about 20 jobs at Thermal Ceramics, the company's human resources director said Friday.

Thermal Ceramics planned to lay-off workers when demand for its heat-resistant bricks declined, human resource director Walt Alexanderson said. The company no longer needed as many workers to fill orders, so it shut down its third kiln.

"We were going to have a layoff next week," he said.

But plans changed when demand for ceramic fibers increased.

Instead, those workers will be shifted to the ceramic fibers business.

It is a reversal of what happened at the company about a year ago.

At that time, demand for the heat-resistant bricks increased while demand for ceramic fibers declined.

Workers were shifted then, too, Mr. Alexanderson said.

The increased demand for ceramic fiber is due to a strong domestic economy and signs of economic recovery in Asia, he added.

Although the heat-resistant materials-maker sells most of its products to domestic manufacturers, the improved conditions in Asia should allow those companies to sell more abroad.

Thermal Ceramics, formerly Babcock & Wilcox Co., is owned by British company Morgan Crucible.

The company plans to replace its 40-year-old kilns later this year to comply with state regulators' emissions standards.

The company employs about 800 workers at its Augusta headquarters off Old Savannah Road.

It makes a variety of products including heat-resistant rings for flat-top stoves, insulating material in air bags, and heat-resistant bricks.

Frank Witsil can be reached at (706) 823-3352.