HEBRON, Ky.—There are various trends occurring in rubber manufacturing in America, including the increased use of automation to allow domestic production to be more cost-effective.
“I would say at the moment our business is strong. The inquiries for equipment and tooling and processes to mold silicone and rubber particles are ... at a healthy level,” said Scott Early, president at Hebron-based Desma USA Inc.
Many of Desma's inquiries come from customers that either want to automate in a semi-fashion or try to make the machine as ergonomically friendly as possible, he said, so that the company can “minimize direct labor content or the amount of time an operator stands in front of a machine removing the part or removing the runner system.”
Desma also speaks with customers who have a goal of having one operator doing several tasks while the press is open or having one operator running multiple machines, he added.
John Baines, president at Hahn Automotive USA, also based in Hebron, said he has watched rubber manufacturing trends change for the last 15 years. Initially, firms leaned toward traditional manufacturing plants without automation. Next, production went overseas to countries such as Malaysia or China. And now more rubber goods manufacturing is coming back to America and bringing more automation into it “to make it more competitive and control it.”
“I've seen a stronger willingness more recently to invest in ways to make rubber production in the U.S. more productive or competitive,” Baines said, adding he believes it is only feasible through automation.