Recruiting Challenges? Image Issues? An Aging American Rubber Industry Must
Materials rebirth must be driven by applied chemistry, scientific reasoning
CLEVELAND, Oct. 8, 2013
CLEVELAND, Oct. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- America's molded rubber industry has
an issue – or several – that jeopardize its future growth and diminish its
importance among the next generation of potential employees. But these
challenges can be addressed by refocusing the industry on applied chemistry
and reigniting young interest in the science of advanced material development,
said Joseph Walker during a keynote speech at the 2013 International Elastomer
Conference in Cleveland today.
Walker, former chairman of the American Chemical Society's Rubber Division and
corporate director of Material Development and Chemical Regulatory Compliance,
Americas, for Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies, told conference attendees
that although America's rubber industry is largely perceived as art-driven and
nonscientific, it is fundamentally essential to successful engineering and
Speaking on behalf of Rubber Division, American Chemical Society, Walker noted
that these perceptions are stifling growth in the industry.
"We aren't attracting new talent because we don't sell the science and
technology involved with our industry to customers or potential employees,"
Walker said. "Every time we talk about the rubber industry as some kind of
'art' and fail to communicate that it is driven by applied chemistry and
scientific reasoning, we are undermining our own growth and success.
"We are communicating that our services aren't valued, and when we communicate
like this we can't compete with other industries for new talent."
The stakes for the U.S. rubber industry couldn't be higher, Walker added.
In 2012, the U.S. chemical industry generated 25 percent of the country's
gross domestic product – some $760 billion in revenue. The rubber industry,
including molded, extruded and lathe cut goods and rubber tube manufacturing,
accounted for $18 billion or 2.4 percent of that total.* Despite this modest
percentage, 75 percent of U.S. rubber corporations anticipate higher sales, 53
percent will reinvest in their businesses and 50 percent anticipate hiring
more employees in 2014 and beyond.
Some of this growth is being driven by the recent push to reindustrialize
America. In recent years, corporations within a variety of industries have
moved at least some of their offshore manufacturing operations and production
work back to the United States in a reversal of earlier outsourcing
Key megatrends are also creating growth opportunities, Walker added. Changes
in fuel economy and emissions standards, fuel types and alternate energy
systems require technology innovations and new materials to meet stringent
performance standards. The development of advanced rubber components that can
help achieve these standards is an imperative to success.
Despite these opportunities, competition from abroad and an inability to
attract enough new talent into the industry to meet hiring demands signal
trouble ahead, Walker noted.
"What we, as rubber industry professionals do every day, can't be trivialized
– it can't be dumbed down," Walker said. "We are scientists. We must focus on
innovation, advanced technology, outreach to a next generation of employees,
lean manufacturing and recognition of our industry as a foundation for
industrial strength in the United States.
"We must showcase our technology, our industrial know-how and our scientific
reasoning each and every time we are visited by a customer who uses our
products and services," Walker concluded. "We can make an impact on our
markets, profits and longevity by raising the level of education, recognition
and appreciation for our industry AND instilling this heightened awareness in
our customers. We have to change the image and fight for recognition. Our
survival depends upon it."
* Source: IBISWorld Market Research: "Rubber Product Manufacturing in the
US: Market Research Report."
About Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies
Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies is the Americas joint venture between
Freudenberg and Co. in Germany and NOK Corp. in Japan. Freudenberg-NOK is a
leading producer – through its Automotive, Merkel, Process Seals and Simrit
sales channels – of advanced sealing technologies for a variety of markets
including: aerospace; agriculture; appliance; automotive; construction;
diesel engine; energy; food and beverage; heavy industry; and pharmaceutical.
Founded in 1989 under the legal name Freudenberg-NOK General Partnership,
Freudenberg-NOK is headquartered in Plymouth, Mich. and operates more than 20
facilities across the Americas. For additional information, please visit
SOURCE Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies
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