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A New Chapter

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The new IMI headquarters includes plenty of warehouse space to house the company's various products.

The new IMI headquarters includes plenty of warehouse space to house the company’s various products.

Commercial tire and wheel solutions provider IMI is now under one roof after settling into its new headquarters in Chambersburg, Pa., the same town where Robert Fogal Sr. founded the company in 1973.

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About a month after the company’s April 8, 2016, move-in date, IMI welcomed a handful of trade media to take a look at the new facility and products, including its new Equal Flexx internal balancing product.

“We’re over 40 years old. This is a completely new chapter in our book,” said Bob Fogal, president and CEO of IMI. “We’re proud and really feel very fortunate of our history and we want to remember our roots. That’s why we have these things and we want to always remember those stories and all that tribal knowledge we have and why we are here. (The new building) is all designed to take us to that next step.”

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New Digs

Looking to better serve its customers and its employees, the company began renovating an existing 40,000-square-foot building located a few miles from its original offices at the end of October 2015.

“We’re really, really excited about this new facility, our new home, that we moved into just about a month ago,” said Fogal. “This is really designed to help facilitate more communication, get everyone under one roof so now everything is within just a minute’s walk.”

Antiques, such as this Shell gas pump, and other nods to IMI's history and culture are placed throughout the building.

Antiques, such as this Shell gas pump, and other nods to IMI’s history and culture are placed throughout the building.

The renovated facility features a combined office space, a warehouse and an engineering lab that houses 26 employees. The new location also has direct access to Interstate-81, which is ideal for field testing products.

Fogal also added his own touch to the new building, including a vintage Shell station gas pump to commemorate Robert Fogal Sr.’s starter business at a Shell station and an antique cash register to symbolize profitability.

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“The key is profitability,” Fogal said. “We exist so we can build our customer’s business… this cash register is symbolic and it’s a reminder to us that we’re here to generate cash flow, we’re here to do that for our customers.”

New Products and Updates

During the visit, IMI also gave media a first-hand look at the state of the company’s wheel refinishing system and its new internal balancing product for fleets – Equal Flexx – to help fleets get better fuel and tire mileage.

“Equal Flexx really comes into an industry that’s been very, very pushed to improve fuel economy,” said Derek Forney, IMI associate product manager. “Fuel is one of the major issues we’ve seen in the last number of years, and while it’s dropped significantly down closer to $2 a gallon for diesel, at the same time it’s the top operating cost of trucks that’s not going to change soon. Also, there’s continued push by people at the EPA to really continue to improve the overall fuel efficiency of all trucks and trailers on the road.”

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The successor of IMI’s original internal balancing product, Equal, Equal Flexx has been engineered after testing more than 50 materials to develop the right product for fleets’ needs. “Equal is a great product, Flexx just does it better,” notes John Tak, director of marketing and product development for IMI.

To put Equal Flexx to the test, IMI held a quick ride and drive in a truck cab to demonstrate how the product affects driving. In order to compare, one vehicle was match mounted and the other vehicle had tires balanced with Equal Flexx.

IMI's Equal Flexx is made up of various materials in the form of small pellets.

IMI’s Equal Flexx is made up of various materials in the form of small pellets.

While much of the technology behind Equal Flexx is proprietary, IMI shared the basics behind the product. Equal Flexx comes in a small pouch with perforations that is placed inside the tire during the mounting process. The small particles that make up Equal Flexx then come out of the perforated pouch and use centrifugal force generated from a tire’s rotation to move around the tire and move to spots inside the tire to correct imbalances. Additionally, the particles absorb vibrations.

IMI stresses the importance of balancing all wheel positions to better the longevity of the tire, the fuel efficiency of the tire and fleet efficiency. Forney notes that about 20% of the rolling resistance related to tires comes from the steer tires, 30-40% comes from the drives and 40% or more comes from the trailer tires.

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“Low rolling resistance tires are fairly new and as those tires continue to improve, fleets are looking for more tire wear. We’ve talked to a number of fleets, such as U.S. Express and Nussbaum, and they’re all looking for improvements – not just on their steer tires, but honestly on all of their wheel positions. So that’s the industry that we’re sitting in today: how do we improve fuel economy, how do we really improve the life and longevity of the tires out there on trucks?” Forney adds.

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