Rogers Corporation - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Rogers Corporation

1 Technology Drive
Rogers, Connecticut 06263-0188

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You may not know our name, but whenever you reach for your cell phone, boot up your laptop, start your car, put on your shoes, open your mail, or even look at the watch on your wrist, we're there.

History of Rogers Corporation

Rogers Corporation was originally founded as a paper mill in 1832 and segued from insulated paperboard into a wide range of high performance materials spanning the marketplace. Rogers Corporation's specialized products--including high-frequency and flexible circuit materials, laminates, urethane foams, liquid crystalline polymers, busbars, and electroluminescent lighting--are used in the automotive, medical, communications, electrical, military, and retail markets. From footwear to gaskets, high-speed interconnects to shock absorbers, circuit boards to digital displays, Rogers makes it all faster, clearer, and more reliable.

Pushing Paper, 1832 to the 1930s

Dutch immigrant Peter Rogers founded the Rogers Paper Manufacturing Company in 1832. Settled in a former two-story powder mill in Manchester, Connecticut, the firm was moderately successful. In 1841 Peter died and his young son Henry took control of the business. Over the next few years Henry diversified the company through experimentation and imagination. He toyed with thicker paperboard, discovered a process for bleaching colored paper, and by 1852 had invented a way to recycle the vast amounts of wastepaper that accumulated around the mill.

Henry retired in 1890 and his two children, son Knight and daughter Gertrude, began running the thriving family business. Like their father before them, Knight and Gertrude were determined to broaden the company's product and customer base beyond selling paperboard to area textiles manufacturers. In 1900 as the textiles industry suffered a downturn, Rogers began insulating its paperboard for use in the burgeoning field of electricity and electrical power.

Rogers Paper Manufacturing Company was incorporated as a public company in 1927, in the state of Massachusetts. The family-owned and operated company had grown to sales of about $1 million annually, fueled by its insulated transformer paperboard. In the early 1930s, as the nation was in the grip of the Great Depression, Rogers was forced to look into new uses for its paper-based products and find as many markets as possible to sell its goods. In 1932 the company began working with Dr. Leo Baekeland, who researched resins and plastics. To provide space for new research and development (R&D) operations as well as its paperboard products, Rogers bought a manufacturing facility in Goodyear, Connecticut, from the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in 1936.

A Major Departure from Paper: 1940s-50s

By the 1940s Rogers Paper Manufacturing Company had been transformed: Knight Rogers had died and Gertrude had brought in outside executives and consultants to ensure the company's survival. Paperboard was no longer the firm's primary focus; chemical engineering and the versatile applications of polymeric materials had become the future of Rogers. To reflect this new direction, the company was rechristened the "Rogers Corporation" in 1945.

Rogers introduced its first "Duroid" product line in 1949. The Duroid products were made of fiber-reinforced polymers, had many applications for electrical insulation, and led to the first of many patents and trademarked products. Rogers Corp.'s success prompted an unusual move in 1954, when the city of Goodyear, Connecticut, changed its name to Rogers, Connecticut. The area's residents, many of whom were employed by the Rogers manufacturing plant, approved of the town's name change.

In the later 1950s Rogers poured increasing amounts of funding into R&D, blending both organic and synthetic fibers with a variety of chemicals and polymers to produce insulating devices and circuitry for the electronics and automotive industries. In 1958 sales had grown to $5 million annually and Rogers reached a major milestone with its first international partnership, granting licensing rights for some of its molding materials to Vynckier N.V. of Ghent, Belgium. A second milestone--producing circuitry in 1959 needed in a new computer built by IBM--soon propelled Rogers into the forefront of the electronics market.

Circuit Boards Take Off: 1960s-70s

In 1960 Rogers was listed on the American Stock Exchange and total sales had risen to the $10 million level by 1963. Its innovations in circuit boards made the company popular with computer makers, while its old stalwart, insulation board, remained vital to the electrical power industry. A 35,000-square-foot addition was built onto the firm's plant in Connecticut in 1963 and three years later, the company bought a new manufacturing facility in Chandler, Arizona. Rogers also bought proprietary technology from Westinghouse Electric Corporation in 1966, which turned into a goldmine. Taking sophisticated circuitry formerly used by Westinghouse and tweaking it, Rogers developed flexible circuits and busbars which then distributed voltage to the circuit boards used in the surging computer and telecommunications markets.

In 1968 the company bought another plant in Connecticut and initiated plans for a new R&D laboratory. The following year, 1969, Rogers went international in a big way by establishing Mektron N.V., a subsidiary in Ghent, Belgium; entering a partnership with Japan's Nippon Oil Seal Industry Company, Ltd. to form Nippon Mekton, Ltd. to sell computer circuitry in Asia; south of the border in the United States, Rogers Mexicana was established in Agua Prieta, Mexico.

While Rogers had experienced record sales of $28 million at the end of the previous decade, the explosion of data processing in the 1970s took the company to new heights. Electronics applications accounted for nearly a third of Rogers' sales in 1970, while sales steadily climbed to $30 million by the end of 1971. Two years later, in 1973, sales had leapt to $43 million and Rogers had seven operational manufacturing plants in the United States, as well as those in Mexico, Japan, and Belgium. It was during the middle years of the decade that a high performance urethane material was developed. Eventually named and trademarked as "Poron," this moldable foam material found its way into footwear as absorbent liners and soles for athletic shoes, ski boots, and skates, and later into sports equipment such as ski racing poles and knee and elbow pads. Poron's industrial applications were also in development and uses for the urethane's cushioning and shock absorption abilities quickly found their way into the transportation and printing industries.

By the end of the 1970s it was clear Rogers had found not one but several niche markets. To keep up with demand and the continuing evolution of its products, the manufacturing facilities in Connecticut, Arizona, and Mexico were all expanded, while two new facilities in Arizona and another in Château Gontier, France, were planned for the first years of the next decade.

The Electronics Revolution: 1980s-90s

Over two-thirds of Rogers Corp.'s business was from the electronics industry in the early 1980s as computers revolutionized the workplace and then homes. Soladyne Inc., a San Diego-based microwave circuit builder, was acquired in 1980, while a new licensing partner for Nippon Mekton was established in Germany, and a sales office was opened in Japan to service the growing Asian markets. A new joint venture in 1988 with 3M Corporation, the Durel Corporation, took Rogers into electroluminescent lighting for use in the dials and display illumination of watches, clocks, medical equipment, and sporting goods.

While the 1980s had been full of heady expansion and corporate raiding for many, the early 1990s brought sobering reminders of the cyclical nature of business. To concentrate more fully on its best performing operations, Rogers divested itself of three business segments from 1992 to 1994 and its Soladyne subsidiary in 1995. Overall sales at the midpoint of the decade had reached a phenomenal $173 million.

In 1996 Rogers acquired Bisco Products from Dow Corning Corporation and the following year opened another manufacturing plant in Ghent, Belgium. The company's growing line of products, which included flexible and high-frequency circuit boards (for computers, inkjet printers, phones, radar and missile guidance systems, and air traffic control), laminates (for disk drives, video recorders, game stations, cameras, telecom cables, automotive systems, and antennas), Poron urethane foams (shock absorbers for computers, appliances, cars, and trucks, as well as footwear, sports equipment, orthotics, and prosthetic limbs), and electroluminescence (digital display and lighting for keypads, pagers, watches, radios, medical equipment, and automotive dashboards) continued to be used in an ever increasing range of applications.

By 1997 Rogers was spending around $10 million in R&D annually, which led to higher performing products, increased sales, and further expansion. In addition to enlarging its facilities in Arizona, building another plant in Belgium, and opening a sales office in Taiwan, overall sales climbed from 1997's $220.9 million to $245.3 million for 1998. The company's full-time employee roster had also grown from 993 worldwide to 1,122 in 1998.

The end of the 20th century found Rogers experiencing record sales, hitting nearly $248 million, due in large part to the thriving wireless communications industry. Rogers Corp.'s high-frequency circuit board laminates ruled the telecommunications market, while Durel Corporation--the firm's joint venture with 3M--sustained record growth in the wireless boom. Poron, the company's versatile urethane material, debuted several new products for use in the footwear and electronics markets, while another joint venture, with Mitsui Chemicals Inc., was established in 1999 as Polymide Laminate Systems LLC. Rogers finished 1999 with total sales of $285 million, up 11 percent over the previous year's figures, and net income of nearly $19 million.

The New Millennium: 2000s

In the new millennium Rogers left the American Stock Exchange and was granted listing on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol ROG. Sales and profits had been growing steadily for several years and 2000 did not disappoint. Combined sales for the company's disparate segments climbed to an all-time high of $316.8 million with net income hitting $26.7 million for the year. In 2001 Rogers formed a joint venture with Chang Chun Plastics Company, Ltd., based in Taiwan, to produce flexible circuit boards for the booming Taiwanese market, and acquired the intellectual property and foam product lines of Cellect LLC to complement its growing High Performance Foams Division. Most significant during the year was the introduction of Rogers R/flex 3600, its liquid crystalline polymer laminate with a wide range of applications for the consumer and communications industries in disk drives, high speed interconnects, handheld electronics, and inkjet printers.

The events of September 11th and the nationwide recession took their toll on Rogers in late 2001. Stock had gone from a low of $23.90 per share in the second quarter of 2001 to a high of $35.80 in the fourth, but year-end sales fell significantly to $276.2 million from 2000's high of nearly $317 million. Net income was hard hit as well at $15.7 million versus the previous year's almost $27 million. Yet Rogers was no stranger to upheaval, having survived and then thrived in the post-Depression era by doing what it did best: adapting and diversifying. In this vein, 2002 found Rogers paring noncore operations and those which had not performed as expected. The Moldable Composites Division was sold while two new manufacturing plants were opened as part of Rogers Technologies Suzhou Company Ltd. in China. The company's international partnerships continued to pay off, with three of its four joint ventures experiencing record growth (the exception was its Taiwanese upstart, which had not garnered as much of the flexible laminates market as anticipated).

The firm's ups and downs were reflected in its stock prices by topping out at $35.80 (the same as 2001's high in the fourth quarter) in the second quarter, yet falling precipitously in the fourth to a low of $20.65 per share. Combined sales for 2002, however, climbed to $286.7 million while income rose slightly to $18.6 million despite international and domestic economic pressures.

In 2003 Rogers bought the remaining interest of Durel Corporation, its joint venture with 3M. Rogers also prepared for a changing of the guard after Chairman and CEO Walter Boomer, who had been with the firm since 1997, announced his retirement from the daily responsibilities of chief executive effective the spring of 2004. Robert Wachob, who had been with Rogers since 1984 and had been serving as president and COO, succeeded Boomer as CEO in April 2004.

Rogers Corporation in the 21st century was a vastly different company than its predecessor in the 19th century, but its core remained the same: developing and manufacturing innovative, high performance products with an eye to the future. For Rogers, the future included reaching the $1 billion mark in sales before 2010 and to continue to meet the evolving needs of the markets it served.

Principal Subsidiaries: Polymide Laminate Systems LLC; Rogers Chang Chun Technology Co., Ltd.; Rogers China, Inc; Rogers Inoac Corporation; Rogers Japan, Inc.; Rogers Korea, Inc; Rogers Southeast Asia, Inc.; Rogers Taiwan, Inc.; Rogers Technologies Co., Ltd.; Rogers Technologies Singapore, Inc.

Principal Operating Units: High Performance Foams; Printed Circuit Materials; Polymer Materials and Components.

Principal Competitors: Cookson Group PLC; E.I. DuPont; Park Electrochemical Corporation.


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