By Mark Shortt
Aero Rubber Company, Inc., a manufacturer of custom rubber parts and sheet materials, knows the importance of asking good questions. Using designs provided by its customers, Aero produces elastomeric parts to meet its customers’ specific requirements. The company’s sales engineers play an important role in enabling the company to deliver the best part to meet a customer’s needs, according to Paul G. Berlin Sr., vice president of operations and quality manager at Aero Rubber Company.
“It’s not always easy to extract all the information required when speaking with a prospect over the phone or via email,” said Berlin in an emailed response. “Aero’s sales engineers are expert at discussing customer projects. If we ask more questions, or more difficult questions than our competition, you can bet that there’s a very good reason for that. We go the extra mile to do all that is possible in assisting our customers to get what they want and also what they need.”
Aero serves virtually any industrial sector that has applications for rubber parts, including aerospace and defense, automotive, petrochemical, building products, and appliances. As a full service rubber parts company, the company provides manufacturing services that range from extrusion, molding, and calendering, to slitting, die cutting, waterjet cutting, and hot vulcanized and cold bond splicing.
Aero’s specialty sales engineers work with customers as requested to bring their product designs to realization. All of the company’s sales engineers have extensive practical experience working with virtually all grades and styles of rubber in a broad spectrum of industries and applications, Berlin said.
“We listen to people,” said Berlin. “Our strength lies with our experienced, ‘consultative’ sales engineers and their ability to listen to what the customer has to say, digest that information, and then assist the customer to decide what to do.”
Once assigned to an Aero sales team, the customer works exclusively with that sales team. “We believe that this allows for Aero and the customer to establish a close working relationship, which, in turn, leads to a deeper understanding of our customer’s particular needs, likes, and dislikes,” Berlin said.
Aero Rubber Company (www.aerorubber.com) produces a variety of parts at its 81,000-square-foot facility in Tinley Park, Illinois. These include standard and custom molded parts manufactured via compression, injection, and transfer molding processes. The company also makes gaskets, seals and O-rings; calendered and molded sheet; and custom and standard extruded profiles. Aero Rubber has been registered to the ISO 9001:2015 revision of the Quality Management System Standard since December 2016.
“Each of our manufacturing support staff has years of experience in the spectrum of rubber processing,” said Berlin, adding that Aero’s team has advanced skills in quality inspection policies and processes, resulting in a high rate of conformance to customer requirements. “We use a MicroVu optical inspection machine to ensure this level of high quality parts. We also have expert AutoCAD skills on staff.”
In one case, a prospect came to Aero with a product they had been having manufactured in Europe. The European supplier went out of business, and the prospect wanted to bring manufacturing back to the USA.
“We had a conversation with the prospect to get an initial idea of what their requirements were, and had them send us a sample for our analysis of rubber compound and sizes,” Berlin recalled. “It was determined that we could indeed make it happen for this customer by utilizing our MicroVu Optical measuring machine and AutoCAD capabilities.”
Berlin said that when Aero gets an inquiry like this, its sales engineers—each of which has expertise in a particular area—put their heads together for input. Ultimately, they come up with a plan of action for the customer to analyze and make their decisions.
“As a group, we put our heads together to determine what the major or critical areas of the product would likely be, based on the customer requirements. We then contacted our customer to convey our findings to them and present them with options for their consideration and selection,” he said.
Aero first determined the actual dimensions of the sample product, and then worked with the customer to determine what tolerances needed to be applied to various characteristics. “This involved a good deal of back and forth discussion with the customer,” Berlin noted. The choice of elastomer to be used in this case was straightforward. “Since the product would be exposed to the elements and attached to a vehicle, EPDM was the material of choice,” he said. “That had been determined prior to Aero’s involvement with the project, and we agreed with that selection.”
After developing tooling to reproduce the product, Aero supplied the customer with a pre-production sample part for testing. Once the customer approved the part, Aero produced it.
Extrusion was the only economically feasible method for production. The product was extruded in long lengths that could then be cut into specific lengths and the ends sealed with EPDM plugs, Berlin said.