Release time : 2015-06-15 13:25:14
As it waits for Defense Department decisions on two major programs, Ceradyne Inc. is beefing up the non-defense side of its business.
On Friday, the California company announced that it had bought the patents and other intellectual property to produce a new ceramic bearing at one of its two Lexington plants. The bearing will be used in the oil industry.
"This is going to be a very large opportunity for us," Ceradyne CEO Joel Moskowitz said. "It's a brand new venture for us."
Jeff Waldal, a Ceradyne vice president who oversees the Lexington plants, said he expects five to 10 new employees will be added "pretty quickly," but "it's going to be a lot bigger than that long term. It could be very significant."
Ceradyne currently has 280 to 300 Lexington employees, down from a high of about 400 earlier this year.
In a few years, oil bearing production might make up for the 112 jobs eliminated at the armor plant earlier this year because of delays by the military in awarding contracts for a new generation of body armor, Waldal said.
In an interview Monday on the CNBC cable news channel, Moskowitz said the armor contracts are expected to be awarded by "late summer."
He predicted that Ceradyne "will get the lion's share" of the work because of its record for on-time deliveries and its production capacity in Lexington and Costa Mesa, Calif., where the armor is made.
Moskowitz also said Ceradyne could have a decision from the military by the end of July on whether Ceradyne and its partners will be awarded a contract to produce The Bull, an armored vehicle designed to protect U.S. forces in Iraq from mines and other weapons used in ambushes.
The Bull is being tested by the military along with a vehicle designed by a British company, BAE Systems, to determine which vehicle will be funded.
Winning a contract to mass produce The Bull would give Ceradyne a major boost, but it is not expected to affect Lexington, Waldal said. None of the production would be done here under current plans.
But he noted that the armor plant recently "maxed out" its production of silicon powders used in ceramics production and added a new furnace to increase future production.
"Who knows what else we can put in here in Lexington," Waldal said.