CLEVELAND—It's been a year since Robinson Brothers Ltd. appointed Swan Chemical Inc. as its exclusive distributor for the firm's Robac-brand technology in the U.S. and Canada, and thus far both parties say the arrangement is working well.
Robinson's Robac line focuses on specialty accelerators used in dry and wet rubber applications, along with polymer additives. The United Kingdom-based firm said the Robac products provide rubber additive solutions for heightened regulatory demands in terms of health, safety and environmental matters.
Robinson views its agreement with Swan as a way to grow the Robac business in North America, while Swan officials said it will expand its rubber additive offerings in the region. Swan Chemical is a manufacturer of black masterbatch and full-service distributor of such rubber-related goods as accelerators, waxes, blowing agents, batch inclusion bags and other specialty chemicals.
One thing that led to the agreement was that both firms know each other well in the U.K. Robinson Brothers was founded there in 1869, while Swan Chemical is a subsidiary of Thomas Swan & Co. Inc., which was formed in the U.K. in 1926.
"The opportunity came to work with Thomas Swan, and what we saw was a good fit between what Swan does and what we do," said Kelvyn Soars, Robinson Brother's business manager for Robac. "We make chemicals that find their way into the rubber industry, but we don't focus on the traditional accelerators."
He spoke about the relationship during the recent ACS Rubber Division Rubber Expo in Cleveland, where Robinson and Swan shared a booth.
Swan Chemical President Charles Van Fleet said the two firms are similar size, privately held, and both focus on technical specialties, rather than commodities.
Jeffery DeWerth, the sales manager for Swan Chemical that oversees its rubber-based businesses, said the two companies also have similar philosophies and strategies, so the working agreement was a natural fit.
"What we bring is complete transparency in terms of the relationship with the customer," he said. "We approach every opportunity as a three-way partnership between the end customer, Swan Chemical and Robinson Brothers. So when these opportunities come up, there's very good dialogue between each of the parties."
Soars said much of its rubber-related goods find usage in highly regulated industries, such as toys. One of its offerings, Robac AS100, is a nitrosamine-free accelerator, he noted.
DeWerth added that many customers for these goods haven't been able to solve problems by themselves, so they need help from Robinson Brothers to customize rubber accelerator packages for a specific application.
Van Fleet told of one customer that needed the same performance of an accelerator they'd used for 20 years, but with the safety, health and environmental advantages of the Robac products. After a six-week period, where Robinson tried numerous accelerator combinations, Soars was able to deliver a system that fit the bill.
"If we are successful and the customer gets it to work, they win because they have an alternative to the traditional system," Soars said. "And we have the potential for more business from that customer because everything they do needs a 'green seal of approval.' "
DeWerth said the agreement between Swan and Robinson Brothers has worked even better than expected, with Robinson supporting both them and the end customers.
"We really couldn't be happier, and I think our customers are seeing that same positive relationship," he said. "We really go in as a united front. It's not just Swan Chemical, it's Swan and Robinson Brothers going in front of those customers."