When looking at buying power and economies of scale, it may be true that "size matters."
But in terms of an ability to make decisions quickly and truly treat each customer equally, another axiom might otherwise be relevant: "Bigger isn't always better."
The rubber custom mixing market in recent years has evolved into a world where a few names dominate the landscape and conversation. But it also remains a business where smaller firms—at least those that haven't been consolidated by the big players—still can find a niche where they can be successful.
One of those is Graphic Arts Rubber, a small mixing and calendering shop that celebrated its Golden Anniversary early this year.
The company is a throwback in some ways. If you call the company, somebody will answer the phone and put you in touch with somebody who can help you.
If you happen to visit there someday, you may even find the company president, a 45-year veteran of the firm, or the general manager, there for more than 20 years, out on the production floor running a mill or calender. The GM knows Graphic Arts can't compete on price for large volume business, but he is certain the firm can hold its own when it comes to providing quality and service.
Not that the firm is stuck in the past by any means. When its original focus of mixing elastomers for the printing business was overtaken to a certain degree by newer technology, Graphic Arts was successful in pursuing and winning business in a wider range of end markets.
The mixer is owned by Rex-Hide Industries, which also is the parent company to a handful of other smaller custom mixing shops. Together, the collection of sister companies can help each other, and Rex-Hide can provide resources when necessary.
Elite Elastomers is another company that has operated a bit under the radar in Mississippi during its roughly two decades in operations. Steve Glidewell jokingly said he started the business before he got old enough to know better.
While Elite does business more toward the middle of the custom mixing market, its technical capabilities and custom formulations drew the attention of DestinHaus Capital, a management consulting firm that bought Elite's mixing assets in Ripley, Miss., earlier this year.
Elite has focused on the higher end of the polymer spectrum in building its mixing business, and DestinHaus looks to capitalize on that and build a portfolio of advanced material capabilities.
But don't worry about Steve Glidewell, who is still working as a consultant with DestinHaus, and his wife, Ginger Glidewell. They still own Elite Elastomers of Ohio, formerly Wayne County Rubber, a mixing shop in Wooster, Ohio.
As history has shown, when it comes to mixing rubber, never underestimate the smaller players.