Seville, Ohio—Rubber liner maker Blair Rubber Co. is expanding steadily its reach overseas.
It recently entered an exclusive business partnership with South Korean corrosion protection product manufacturer Saekaphen Korea Co. Ltd. to serve as an applicator and distributor of linings for Blair in the country, a Blair spokesman said.
Saekaphen Korea is part of the Saekaphen group of companies, a family owned, third-generation operation headquartered in Gladbeck, Germany, that produces and applies substrate coatings and surface treatments for carbon steel, stainless steel, copper alloys, concrete and a number of others.
Saekaphen was looking for a primary containment rubber lining provider in South Korea and approached Blair with the possibility. The companies began doing business together earlier this year, according to Blair General Manager Dave Jentzsch.
Tom Bogart, Blair's export sales manager, said Saekaphen "was interested in getting away from one of our competitors because every order had to go through a distributor." He told the company Blair could sell directly to the firm and cut out the middleman, "which we found to be a better relationship."
Seville-based Blair has distribution arms in a number of countries--including Australia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Mexico—and it viewed a pact with Saekaphen as a solid opportunity in South Korea, he said.
Blair had been operating in the region, he said, "but we've only invested time and money in China. So now we have an exclusive agreement with Saekaphen. For any business we do in South Korea, we go through them. We're really establishing solid business over there."
Because there is not a strong rubber lining market in the country, Saekaphen has had to rely on outside sources, Jentzsch said. "So they're buying our procured products and our uncured tank linings for their needs, and we've had several orders already from Saekaphen—largely for the phosphate fertiliser industry.
"We're also shipping a lot of rubber product to areas like Egypt and even the Ukraine. Our goal is to find the niche markets where service and quality are the most important factors and we're going after those targets."
Jentzsch said things developed slowly with the South Korean company. "We've now built our business up to the point that we're comfortable there. We make and provide the liners and they do the installation. It's turning out to be a great opportunity for us."
Overall, the rubber lining business has slumped over the last two years primarily because of a poor mining market, but things are beginning to look up in the US, he said, adding that gold and copper prices are going up so mining in those sectors is starting to show some life again.
He figures it may take another year for the rubber lining business to improve in the rail car sector, where Blair does a significant amount of business. "We're starting to quote more projects now, so business has improved," he said.