NASHVILLE, Tenn.―Trostel Ltd. is less than a year into marketing its rubber consulting services, but thus far the Lake Geneva, Wis.-based firm is pleased with the result.
The rubber product maker and compounder started this part of its business offerings with the basic mantra, “Bring us your problem, and give us the opportunity to solve it for you,” according to Steven Dyer, Trostel president and CEO.
“That can lead to myriad paths, whether it's in product compounding, whether it's in prepping of that material, whether it's in the processing of that rubber, or the actual design of the part and the application,” he said during the ACS Rubber Division's Rubber Expo, held in Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 14-16. “With Trostel's breadth of experience and knowledge, we're able to drive to real world solutions and root cause analysis.”
Dyer said the firm has dedicated resources and upgrades in its testing and lab capability into the consulting area, and so far the response has been good. And as more people learn about the services, he's confident they will come to Trostel.
“The selfish side of this is several of the people who have brought issues to us are now customers, some on the compounding side and some on the molding side,” he said. “It's been a door opener. As we've been able to prove that we can add value and can be that technical solutions provider and tangibly bring something that makes a difference in their bottom line, then we've been given the opportunity to earn business.”
Getting the word out
Dyer said the Rubber Expo was the first show where Trostel has brought the consulting services offerings up in its booth as a topic of discussion. There has been some publicity in industry publications, and potential customers have seen it on Trostel's website and in its newsletters.
Word-of-mouth also has helped drive inquiries. “As we've had some successes in the marketplace, we've had quite a bit of referral business,” he said. “Some of our major suppliers have become some of our best sales people. As people come to them with questions, a lot of times the solution's not at the base polymer level but it's further along in the value chain, and they'll point them toward Trostel to help solve their problems.”
Trostel has a basic menu of services that details what particular tests will cost. Dyer said the firm has benchmarked itself against others in the industry to ensure it is price competitive.
“You have hundreds of years of experience and expertise here, and certainly you get what you pay for,” he said. “Our feeling is if someone's not willing to pay for the answer, then they really don't have a serious problem.”
Dyer added that as the relationship with a customer begins to evolve, it becomes part of the overall product offering of Trostel. “That is in our relationship and the value add that we bring to the table is access to this technical group from their engineering groups all over the world,” he said.
The Trostel CEO relayed one example of where the firm was working with a company's facility in Mexico. But the customer had similar issues with its product line at its European operations, so that led to a couple of trips to Germany to help bring about solutions there.
“It starts with the mix and it goes all the way through the processing,” Dyer said. “It includes things like shelf life and vendor-managed inventories, and our assistance in getting the rubber compounding installed properly into their end-use product.”
Start to finish knowledge
Trostel is by no means trying to be everything to everyone, he said, but merely use its experience with products, processes and applications to solve problems. “Whether it's in appliance or automotive, trucks or oil and gas, they all have very similar issues when it comes down to what the true root cause of a problem is, and our ability is to see them,” the CEO said.
The fact that Trostel can both compound and mold end products adds a lot of value with its consulting services. “Our view is by controlling that from compound development through product validation through part design and tooling gives us a more comprehensive look,” he said. “There's less opportunities for finger-pointing. The bottom line is it's a problem for the end-use customer, and our ability to control our own destiny and not have any excuses helps us with speed to market.”
Trostel has come out with product lines this year off of prototype tooling at its Technology Center in Lake Geneva after being presented with problems by customers. It has launched two production cells there and later moved those to its main molding facility in Reynosa, Mexico, as order volume dictated, and plans to move two additional programs there over the holidays, he said.
Some production, however, will continue to be done at Lake Geneva, Dyer said, especially for customers that want a “Made in the USA” label for its products. “It's morphing from just a technology development and deployment center into a manufacturing center of excellence,” he said.
Trostel is projected to show sales growth of 10-12 percent this year and expects similar upward trends for the next couple of years, though Dyer declined to disclose exact sales. For the time being, he said the firm is caught up with “brick and mortar” expansion projects but is concentrating on adding to its engineering staff.