CERRITOS, Calif.—R.D. Abbott Co. Inc. has formed a legal entity in Mexico and is looking to increase its business there, following much the same path to growth that it has at its Cerritos-based operation in the U.S.
In addition, the full-service supplier of a number of rubber-related materials and testing equipment has expanded the capabilities at its laboratory in Cerritos as it continues to try to set itself apart from other distributors with its technical capabilities.
R.D. Abbott incorporated its Mexican business in Queretaro, starting with two warehouses and a third location planned in the near future, Chief Operating Officer Scott Kearns said. It initially will have two employees, both Mexican nationals, one serving as director and the other an account manager for the country.
"Our intention is to leverage the same type of footprint that we have in the U.S. within Mexico to service that segment," Kearns said. "Many of our customers are active in the U.S. and Canada, and are becoming more active in Mexico."
R.D. Abbott partners with manufacturers that provide a portfolio of elastomeric polymers, rubber chemicals, fillers, bonding agents and testing equipment. Kearns said the early stages of its business in Mexico likely will center around products from three of its long-standing partners: Lord Corp., Dow Corning Corp. and Lanxess A.G.
"We're working with our supplier partners to develop geographic support in the region as well," he said. "We've been crawling, walking and now getting our stride within the country. It's been a significant investment for us."
The Cerritos-based firm basically is following many of its customers to Mexico so it can provide them with local inventory and technical support, Kearns said.
"The Mexican market is very eager to learn," he said. "There are a lot of engineers. We've been very involved with giving technical papers and training in Mexico. They just really want to learn about rubber technology."
Rick Ziebell, vice president of technology and innovation management, said the technical support includes process support and raw material selections, adding that the firm will continue to support compounding and physical sampling from the U.S. at this time.
"Obviously, the objective as we continue to move forward and get traction in the country is to duplicate what we have in Cerritos into Mexico," Kearns said.
Much of the business development in Mexico has been driven by automotive and aerospace, he said.
"I think the fear is there's all this buzz about automotive and aviation going into Mexico, and a lot of people are ramping up for it," Kearns said. "People are getting in position and a lot of people are chasing after it. The U.S. still is driving a good deal of the specifications work. It is just a matter of time before Mexico is doing their own spec work."
Ziebell said one of the key differentiators will be to actually establish operations in Mexico, rather than just sell into the market from the U.S. "To build a facility and warehouse and infrastructure with technical and sales support in Mexico with those who already understand the local business is key," he said. "And that's our drive and our passion to be there."
While R.D. Abbott has added a good deal of equipment to its larger testing lab in Cerritos, its officials were quick to say that the capabilities are there to help customers develop materials and scale-up—that they will be in no way trying to compete in the market with its customers.
"This is for R&D, for those interested in the small samples," Ziebell said. "The initial sampling all the way up through pre-production. At that point, it's turned over to custom mixers (to supply production volumes of materials)."
The new equipment includes an "00C" internal mixer, a 40-inch compounding mill for scale-up work, an advanced rheometer, tensometer, disperGRADER and an integrated lab management system supplied by Alpha Technologies.
Ziebell said his lab is developing both organic formulations with SBR, polyisoprene, butyl, nitrile and fluoroelastomers, formulating those using the lab size internal mixers and understanding the dispersions using the equipment from Alpha. "Therefore we can translate the technical recipe and formulation details to a custom mixer so there's a straightforward scale-up and end product," he said.
The lab also can handle silicone materials through internal mixing and mill work, and can formulate materials for a wide variety of applications. It also can supply sample-size quantities and various two-part kits of liquid silicone rubbers and fluorosilicones.
Ziebell also said that in 2016 the lab worked on more than 400 development projects, all involving a variety of organic rubber and silicones. All the commercial developments are then serviced by different custom mixers from across North America.
"We work confidentially with the parties who we serve, and the formulations we develop for them are released for their use," he said. "It's the customer's intellectual property; they own the formula. That's unusual in the marketplace."
As R.D. Abbott does not mix, the development customers then make the determination whether they will do it internally if they have that capability, or work with a custom mixer.
"Obviously, our intention is to leverage the tool box of supplier partners, which is significant from organic polymers to silicone, additives and critical ingredients in between," Kearns said.
Ziebell said the lab has 10 people dedicated to technical services, and it is these capabilities that sets R.D. Abbott apart.
Kearns added: "We're not just taking the product from the shelf and promoting it to the marketplace, but really enhancing it and assuring that it works well in the application."