LOS ANGELES—Coi Rubber Products Inc. seemed to spring up out of nowhere in 2013 with a young, experienced industry veteran at the helm.
It also had a small plant in China to handle manufacturing. That was the good news. The bad news was that the custom rubber goods maker's factory was older as was some of the machinery at the site.
Some would have called the company a long shot to make it in the rubber products arena. They would have been wrong.
Coi Rubber's co-founder, David C. Chao, apparently knew what he was doing. When he launched the company, he already had a small but solid customer base, a number of experienced leaders to help guide the business and an aggressive growth plan in place as a foundation from which it could grow.
In addition, the firm's owners had the foresight and a plan that allowed the company to produce products and continue growing while it built a new production facility from the ground up in Anhui Wuhu, China, two blocks down from Lear Corp.
Coi Rubber broke ground on the Anhui Wuhu factory, which is located about 30 minutes away from the firm's old site and a six hour drive inland from Shanghai, in 2013 and completed construction in 2015. In August 2016 it received ISO-TS 16949 certification. The company, which started out with 150 employees in China, has been adding machinery and personnel since then. It now has a workforce of about 450.
"We put together a factory in China built and run with Asian-American leadership, expectations, values and framework," Chao said.
He also had a financial interest is some partner manufacturing companies in China and they have helped shoulder some of the production workload during the construction stage of the plant.
A steady flow of the company's products are shipped to the U.S. in 40-foot containers on a regular basis, insuring the most competitive shipping costs possible, Chao said. It primarily, but not exclusively, serves the automotive, HVAC, agriculture, heavy trucking and commercial rubber markets.
Today the 250,000-sq.-ft. factory in Anhui Wuhu not only is running efficiently, it's also in a continuous expansion mode. "We specialize in custom molded, extruded, rubber-to-metal-bonded products and also plastic injection," he said.
Coi Rubber is currently finishing up phase one of its extensive growth project at the new plant, according to Chao, who is a co-owner and president of the Los Angeles-headquartered business. The company expects to complete stage one in the fourth quarter.
That expansion project involves adding personnel and a variety of new equipment at the Anhui Wuhu facility. The firm also has experienced growth at its headquarters facility in the City of Industry, a 10-by-5 mile stretch in Los Angeles County that houses numerous companies.
Chao said that while the company's plant spans 250,000 square feet, when partnering plants in which he has made investments are included, the company has over 1.4 million square feet which gives it "great depth and manufacturing power."
Machinery added at the Anhui Wuhu site includes a variety of transfer, injection and compression molding presses for both rubber and plastic along with those used for extrusion and rubber to metal bonding. "Those are the core areas in which we do manufacturing," Chao said.
Its latest piece of equipment—an auto coating machine with 40 working stations for metallic framework—arrived at the facility in late April.
Long time dream
While Coi Rubber was formed by Chao, partner Alex Horng and some silent partners in 2013 and began producing products from its older facility and at plants operated by partner companies in China in 2014, that actually wasn't the beginning of the business.
The idea of launching a rubber products company was always in the back of his mind, he said. "I had invested in real estate in China while I contemplated building Coi Rubber Products," so he was well prepared when he finally made the move.
Chao had started working in the rubber industry right out of college. "This was back in the early 2000s and I had the greatest experience going all over the world selling rubber," he said. "This included Mexico, Japan, the U.S. and China. I had a lot of success in many industries, including but not limited the automotive, agriculture, heavy truck and appliance industries."