Mueller Water Products Inc. will close its U.S. Pipe and Foundry Co. LLC ductile-iron pipe plant in North Birmingham, AL, by March 31, eliminating approximately 260 positions. According to a statement by Mueller, U.S. Pipe foundries in Bessemer, AL, and Union City, CA will assume production orders from the plant.
U.S. Pipe is a division of Atlanta-based Mueller Water Products, which was spun off from Walter Industries in 2006. It manufactures ductile iron pipe, fittings, valves, gaskets, and hydrants.
The company closed its Burlington, NJ, ductile-iron pipe plant in early 2008.
The Bessemer location was the site of a new, automated plant that started up in September 2008. It was designed as the first ductile-iron pipe plant in the domestic market to deploy “state-of-the-art machinery and transport systems which capitalize on continuous flow and computer-aided processes.”
Mueller chairman, president, and CEO Gregory Hyland described the plant “the most efficient ductile-iron pipe manufacturing process in the United States,” and said its performance “has exceeded our expectations for quality, efficiency, and overall productivity.”
According to Hyland: "The performance of our automated manufacturing process has exceeded our expectations for quality, efficiency and overall productivity.
"As a result,” he continued, “we are able to consolidate production, eliminate fixed costs and improve productivity by leveraging the investment we made in upgrading our manufacturing technology which commenced operations 16 months ago. With the growing awareness of the need to repair or replace the country's aging water infrastructure and a residential construction recovery, we believe that we will see increased demand for ductile iron pipe over the longer term."