FAIRLAWN, OHIO—Showa Denko America Inc. is growing again.
The U.S. arm of Japan-based Showa Denko K.K. has opened its first U.S. warehouse in Cincinnati to store and distribute latex and dry chloroprene rubber made at the company's factories in Kawasaki, Japan, and shipped to the U.S., according to Karolina Mera, sales manager at the firm's U.S. headquarters in New York.
The warehouse is needed because Showa Denko has been growing in the U.S., and "we are planning to service the West Coast with our new warehouse in 2014," she said at the International Latex Conference, held July 23-24 in Fairlawn.
She said the facility spans about 35,000 square feet, is temperature controlled and offers full logistics services to the firm's customers.
In addition to the Cincinnati operation, the company collaborates with partners in Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala and Brazil to store and distribute its goods across other parts of North America.
Mera said the U.S. operation is adding sales people because the company expects greater growth in the U.S. this year and in the future.
Showa Denko has been a producer and major supplier of polychloroprene since 1963 as part of a joint venture the company had with DuPont Dow Elastomers L.L.C. The partners dissolved the venture in November 2002, and Showa Denko continued to make the product for the latex industry.
"The market is good right now," Mera said. "Our product has the same quality as DuPont's, but we have better prices." That is part of the reason the firm has continued to grow and expand, she said.
"We've experienced very significant growth and plan to continue growing," she said. "We needed to store material (in the U.S.) for our current customers and future prospects."
Mera cited several factors for Showa Denko's improvement, not the least of which is product quality and a strong service operation.
"Now companies can choose from the three major chloroprene manufacturers located globally," she said.
Companies don't want to rely on one supplier, and they need a second supplier "with great quality products, good customer service and competitive prices," she said.
In addition, the company's one-time 50-50 partnership in their dissolved joint venture continues to pay dividends for the firm.
"Showa Denko still uses the manufacturing methods and formulations which were used when DuPont was our partner," she said. And it continues to produce grades that DuPont has discontinued. "Customers are going back to the old Neoprene formulations using Showa Denko's chloroprene. Our material is consistent with DuPont's material."
The company's customers successfully have replaced natural rubber and isoprene. Environmentally friendly and chemically resistant products are now in demand, Mera said.
More than 50 percent of the firm's sales are to the latex industry, she said, and that end of its business continues to expand. "We believe that more companies will be switching from solvent base to water base products."
Mera said increased government regulations, combined with low volatile organic compound requirements and other environmentally friendly efforts, have caused a number of industries to shift their focus to low-VOC offerings.
"Showa Denko is continually developing latex grades not only to service the medical field but the waterproofing and asphalt emulsions industries," she said. "We are helping the adhesives and sealants industries to meet the low VOC requirements of new governmental regulations and green building codes."