MIAMI—Venair may be a well-known name in the silicone hose business throughout other parts of the world, but the manufacturer is just starting to gain traction in North America.
“It's not easy to get going,” said Nicholas Bechtel, vice president of Venair Inc., the Miami-based firm that handles sales in North and South America for parent Venair Iberica. “We're the new kid on the block in the U.S., and people don't know our name like they do elsewhere in the world. But really, it's about showing people what we can do.”
Venair Iberica is headquartered in Barcelona, Spain, has factories in China and a new one in Vietnam, along with offices in 10 countries, according to Bechtel. He talked about the company during NAHAD's annual convention, held recently in Las Vegas.
Venair produces silicone hose for both the industrial sector—aiming at heavy diesel engines—along with food and pharmaceutical process equipment. It is one of just a few silicone players to service the two divergent markets, he said.
The company specializes in handmade hoses, so the process is labor intensive and can make for some longer lead times. For example, there are certain lines where only eight of a particular hose can be produced a day on each machine, Bechtel said. “So when we receive orders for 10,000, we need a lot of people and we need a lot of tools and we need a lot of room.”
Most of the time, though, the firm will have a forecast ahead of times, he said, so it can plan production accordingly.
Bechtel joined Venair about four years ago. The firm already had an office and warehouse set up and was looking for an engineer with automotive as well as sales managerial experience. “There aren't many of us around,” he said.
He started as an engineer for Ford, then moved to sales, working in automotive distribution. “What drew me to this is it's something brand new in the U.S., and that makes it easier to sell,” Bechtel said.
The firm also can supply low-volume, specialized orders when needed. When entering North America, Venair really focused on the industrial side of the business. Its silicone hoses for diesels found their way into commercial bus, heavy truck, construction, marine and aerospace applications, among others.
He said the industrial side of the business, however, may become subject to more competition from low-cost countries trying to push products on price without paying enough attention to quality.
There is less competition in the food-pharmaceutical sector, Bechtel said, because quality can't be compromised in these markets. “Everything needs to be certified,” he said. “A certification package even on one hose assembly is pretty expensive.”
Business for the U.S.-based subsidiary is growing as fast as the firm can handle it. Venair Inc. now accounts for about $5 million to $6 million in annual sales, roughly 20 percent of the company's overall revenue of $25 million to $30 million, the official said.
It focuses on getting its silicone hoses into the market through distribution by not just merely giving distributors a good price and leaving it at that. “We go in and we have a really good program where we teach the outside sales staff of the distribution companies where to go, who to ask for and what to look for to find the opportunities to quote,” Bechtel said.
Often, it's just a matter of knowing where to look. Many of the distributors, he said, already are selling goods into facilities that require silicone hoses, but they hadn't previously known this. “Many times, the distributor's outside sales people don't need to find new customers, but it's something else they can add to the portfolio of products they're already selling to these people.”