In the beginning, the idea wasn't to reinvent the industrial wheel in the material handling industry, just to better its performance on a grand scale.
In 1964, while the Beatles were invading America and reinventing rock and roll, Superior Tire and Rubber Corp launched with immensely less fanfare and press coverage, but with the same groundbreaking potential. “It's not as though 50 years ago we had a business plan that forecasted where we'd be today,” Superior executive vice president Bill LeMeur said.
But here Superior Tire and Rubber Corp is today, 50 remarkably transformative years later, as a worldwide manufacturer recognized as a leader in the design and manufacture of polyurethane and rubber industrial components for the material handling, construction, agricultural, military and mining industries. The Pennsylvania-based enterprise has climbed the ladder and grown with immense success thanks to several game-changing product initiatives, but mostly due to a company vision statement that has become Superior Tire and Rubber Corp's operational creed.
“As we've become a larger, more complex company, we're driven by this mission,” LeMeur said. “That vision defines all our decision making internally and externally.”
Superior Tire and Rubber Corp's customers gain a substantial advantage on their competitors thanks to the company's extensive inventory of elastomer choices, in-house design, technical modeling and design support services and linear and non-linear mechanical and thermal analysis using Algor FEA and custom software tools. That extensive performance system also has allowed Superior Tire and Rubber Corp to jump leagues ahead of most industry competition.
Since 1990, Superior has posted 9 percent compound annual growth. Since 2010 – in the shadow of the nation-wide recession -- Superior has netted a remarkable 13 percent sales growth.
This is a company that doesn't know the meaning of spinning its wheels. In 1978, Superior made a critical move to polyurethane components. “We were strictly rubber before that,” LeMuir said.
In 2001, Superior Rubber and Corp introduced pallet jack stabilizer, an extremely successful product launch that LeMeur calls a pivotal moment in company history “that signified a jump to more complex casting products.”
Superior's patents kept coming, like its extremely popular S9143 load wheel made of high quality Cushothane Polyurethane compounds. Superior's ISO certification (now all the way up to 14,001) also grew, as did its now worldwide customer base. As demand grew, so did the company's commitment to serving all its customers with excellence.
In 2010, Superior opened a 6,000 square foot warehouse in Los Angeles. The result was the company tripling its sales in Southern California – one of the polyurethane industry's most important markets – and having product immediately available for customers.
“If you're in the polyurethane and rubber business, you've got to be selling in southern California,” Lemeur said. “We've got a great sales team over there. (The facility) has been a tremendous success.”
In 2012, the company launched a 2,000 square foot warehouse in Chicago with a super-sized product line that includes load wheels and press-on tires.
In the research department, the elite performance levels of the company's top line items such as skid steers, fiberglass chopper cots and bridge bearings continued to be refined and bettered.
And Superior shows no signs of putting on the growth brakes in its golden anniversary year. This June, Superior will begin molding product in another new facility.
Superior Tire and Rubber Corp's entire product catalog is proudly engineered and produced in the United States on state of the art processing and machining equipment, overseen by quality management systems registered to ISO 9001:2008. During LeMeur's own business travels, he's learned what Superior's Made In the USA label means to international customers, particularly those served by Superior's thriving Latin American sales initiative.
“I've spent a lot of time in Mexico and learned how important Made In America is to the people of Mexico,” Lemeur said. “Eventually, people get sick and tired of the problems associated with the lowest-priced product. (The Made In USA imprint) signifies our investment in technical excellence.”
“Our customers don't want to inventory a lot of product themselves,” LeMeur said. “As the market has evolved, it's important to make your product available as soon as possible.”
In 1964, there were less than 20 people on board for Superior's “the sky's the limit” launch, Today, a vibrant, trend-setting company of 255 is world-wide (selling truck parts in the Middle East) and serving and changing the industry every day thanks to a strictly defined and universally followed vision statement.
“As vender of choice, we provide technical excellence to give our customers a competitive advantage.”
And, following that vision has given Superior Tire and Rubber Corp. a remarkable competitive business advantage for 50 years and counting.
Clete Campbell is a freelance journalist with 16 years of daily newspaper experience. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to contact Clete.