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H.B. Fuller Makes It Stick

These dumping machines have been used since the ’40s.

Would you believe there’s a massive plant in Jackson that makes products you use every day, but never thought about? The sticky stuff on your bandages, your tape, your windows, even the stuff that keeps your toilet paper together; it’s all made at H.B. Fuller.

A few Chamber team members had the opportunity to get the full behind-the-scenes at H.B. Fuller, led by Dan Dixon, Senior Project Engineering Manager. Dan works on the major capital projects, mainly at the facility in Michigan Center. The Michigan Center facility is H.B. Fuller’s largest. At this facility, they produce adhesives and sealants that you can find in some places that may surprise you.

Wind seal used in automobiles

H.B. Fuller produces everyday products like glue, superglue, PIB (polyisobutylene), caulk, roofing primers, and more. Some brands you may recognize, like Gorilla Glue and Red Devil, contain material made right in the Michigan Center facility. Odds are, if you look in your toolbox, garage, or even your junk drawer, you’re bound to find one of these things. However, you won’t see an H.B. Fuller label during your next trip to the hardware store. They create the material that makes these products sticky or sealed. A name brand you see on the shelf takes that material and sells it under their brand.

At the Michigan Center plant, they have around 300 employees, each working in three shifts. H.B. Fuller is a global facility that’s divided into three different business units or divisions:

1. Construction adhesive (This plant can be found right in Jackson County.)

2. Engineering adhesive

3. HHC consumer products (adhesives for diapers, toilet paper, and even makeup)

When you’re buying caulk for your latest home improvement project, you’re not thinking of the process of how it got to the shelf of your local hardware store. It’s surprisingly fascinating to watch it happen.

Butyl (rubber) pellets

Caulk starts out as a butyl rubber base, which is masticated (blended to break down) in process equipment. Out of this comes what Dan called a “master batch.” This then is made into pellets and put into another mixer where powder is added. Oil is added to help break the rubber down and is mixed until it softens. Powders are used as extenders to make the batch bigger, then a solvent is added. It’s at this point that the material won’t harden until it is exposed to air. That material is then put in a quart, pint, or tube, ready to be added to your toolbox.

Liquid rubber comes out at about 420 degrees and is used for products like bandages.

Beyond the machinery and materials of it all, H.B. Fuller does more than just create. Dan explained that H.B. Fuller is always working on making eco-friendly improvements. They’re currently looking into lower VOC (volatile organic compounds) for primers and caulks. Some solvents can be bad for the atmosphere, and H.B. Fuller is looking for more ways to replace things that are harmful while increasing safety and sustainability.

H.B. fuller also participates in Earth Day cleanups, recognizes a Volunteer of the Year, and organizes food and blood drives. “It’s a pretty giving organization,” Dan stated as he explained the many ways H.B. Fuller is involved in the community. Their generosity is seen continuously through volunteer work and community involvement.

Next time you’re looking through a window, wrapping a gift, or fixing a broken toy, you can thank H.B. Fuller for turning your sticky situation into a problem solved. You can learn more about H.B. Fuller by going to their website to see community involvement, what they do, and job openings.