HarbisonWalker: Beyond branding

By Davide Ghilotti
Published: Saturday, 21 May 2016

After bringing together its cluster of operations under a unique global flag, HarbisonWalker International is betting on rebranding to solidify its position on the market.



US refractory producer HarbisonWalker International (HWI) has been overhauling its entire structure and branding position as it seeks to take the company to the next stage of development and ensure future growth.

Active in the industry for over 150 years, HWI supplies refractory products to a variety of sectors including metallurgy, glass, power generation, chemicals, refineries and petrochemicals, construction, pulp and paper and several others.

HWI is today the largest manufacturer of refractory products and services in the US. 

At the AISTech 2016 Iron & Steel Technology Conference and Exposition, recently held in Pittsburgh, HarbisonWalker International chairman and CEO Steve Delo said: "While transformation of this company is ongoing, the launch of our new external branding is a milestone that marks the right time to tell the story of our progress and plans."

For the past two years, the company has been through a process of transformation of its commercial operations that has affected all its divisions and locations.

Increasing efficiency and improving service availability for clients was its primary objective. To this end, value-added service teams have been set up to offer on-site management, installation, equipment, inventory management, heating solutions and testing for customers across all industries. A second team, the Global Projects and Engineering Team, is now operational in greenfield construction, manufacturing, plant modernisation, servicing and engineering needs of existing facilities.

Two research facilities were established with focus on R&D, one of which is the largest of its kind in North America. All the distribution centres were restructured to improve delivery services.

In production processes, the company is increasing investments in manufacturing and stated it has achieved improvements in raw material and monolithic process controls. 

Unifying under one brand

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, HWI is active in North America, Europe and Asia with 19 manufacturing plants, 30 sourcing centres and two research facilities in the US and China. The company operates 17 plants in North America, one in the UK and another in Indonesia. The group as a whole employs some 2,000 people.

In 2015, it shipped over 130m lbs (58,967 tonnes) of materials to customers worldwide.

Prior to renaming in 2015, HWI was known as ANH Refractories Co., a cluster that included AP Green Refractories Co., North American Refractories Co. and Harbison-Walker Refractories Co. Today, the group operates under the single HWI trademark.

Branding has played a major role in the group’s external strategy. With the collating of its various operations under the HWI name, the company is seeking to capitalise on one main brand image across the industry.

Carol Jackson, senior vice-president and general manager, said: "Beyond naming, we utilised the market research to understand what traits about us needed to be reflected in our brand. Above all, the brand needs to communicate the promise we are prepared to deliver every day to our stakeholders, internally and externally."

To lead the process, the company has nominated Martha Collins as chief technology officer. As part of the rebranding, HWI has also launched a new website, intranet, print and digital trade advertising campaigns.

After the first creation of its mobile app in 2014 – when the company was still AHN Refractories – HWI has now launched an updated version of the app, featuring access
to HWI’s Water Mix Calculator and other resources for customers using HWI’s