LAS VEGAS—After selling off its expansion joint business in 2017, Unaflex Inc. had to rebrand itself as UIP International Inc.
That's because with the expansion joint business being sold to Kadant Corp., that operation now is known as Kadant-Unaflex. And as part of the purchase agreement, the Unaflex Industiral Products unit was given its new name, according to Ted White, UIP International vice president.
White said that prior to the sale, the company had been split into separate units, including the industrial products business; the expansion joint business that now is Kadant-Unaflex; Atlantic International Coupling; and the H.S. White Co., which supplies a variety of marine and industrial goods, both rubber and non-rubber.
UIP International remains based in Pompano Beach, Fla., with distribution sites there and in Houston, said White, who discussed the company during the recent NAHAD annual convention in Las Vegas.
He said UIP is focused on industrial hose, hydraulic hose, marine hose, custom hand-built hose, hose fittings, sheet rubber and gasket manufacturing. While it makes the gaskets at the Pompano Beach site, the firm licenses offshore suppliers for the hose, fittings and rubber sheet, White said.
UIP recently invested "several hundred thousand dollars" to add automated equipment for the gasket manufacturing. "Back in the day gaskets were cut by hand or clicker presses," White said. "Now it's automated machinery. You program it, flip a switch, and it's a beautiful product."
On the hose side, UIP added hydraulic hose about a year ago to its full complement of industrial hose lines, which include water suction, discharge, tank truck, sand blast and chemical hose. White said the hydraulic hose helps complete its line, and he believes the company will do well in the field despite the large number of competitors.
"A lot of our distributors have not only industrial hose, but most of them also have hydraulic hose. It goes hand-in-hand," he said. "We have a customer base that is 50 years old. They know UIP and they want to work with UIP. Hydraulic is going well. It's easy to grow from zero up."
About 90 percent of the firm's sales go through distribution, he added.
UIP considers itself the most competitively priced supplier in the hose industry. White said the key to keeping its price point low is finding a good quality, extremely competitively priced source for the hose lines, built to UIP specifications.
White said it produced hose starting in the early 1970s in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., moved that to Pompano Beach in 1986 and onto Anderson, S.C. in 2004. From there, he said hose production moved off-shore, with the Anderson site still used to manufacture the expansion joints that are now part of Kadant-Unaflex.
"That (history) allowed us to design hoses for the industry," he said. "We've been able to help these offshore companies manufacture hose."
He said the company hopes President Trump will discontinue tariffs that are impacting the products UIP imports into the U.S., though White said the company's hose prices are extremely competitive even with the tariffs.
There was some confusion in the marketplace about the new moniker, but Nikki White, UIP's marketing and analytic specialist, said the firm has been working to get the name and brand out into the market. That effort has included advertising, attending trade shows and events, a new branding image and a re-worked website.
"Some call and say, 'UIP? Who's UIP? You mean Unaflex,' " she said. "We have to correct them at times."
The White family has been in the rubber business for decades, as Ted's brother Howard White is company president and CEO. Now that the sale is completed there will be family members both in UIP and Kadant-Unaflex. At Kadant-Unaflex, Howie White is president; Matthew White (Nikki White's husband) is director of sales and marketing; and Bobby Buchanan, Ted White's nephew, is national sales manager.
Ted White said it felt weird at first to have family at a different company, but it's worked out for the best. "It's a good opportunity for them to grow up in the corporate world," he said.
And without the sale of the expansion joint business, he and his brother wouldn't have been able to put this much focus on UIP and the H.S. White business.
The brothers hadn't been looking to sell until Kadant approached them, Ted White said. When it got out into the marketplace that the business might be sold, several other suitors made higher monetary offers, but the Whites stuck with Kadant.
"Because of the quality of people at Kadant, we wanted to work with them," White said. "We would not have sold if we were uncomfortable with the acquisition. If we had any sort of feeling that they were going to rip the company apart and move it or do something other than what they're doing, we would not have sold it."