How they do it

It started in 1995 in a garage. Now Pro Auto Rub­ber is one of the lead­ing rub­ber ex­tru­sion sup­pli­ers in South Africa, with a com­pre­hen­sive net­work of in­ter­na­tional part­ners and its own man­u­fac­tur­ing plant. This is a brief in­sight into the world of its bus

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - Com­piled by Leisure Wheels in part­ner­ship with Pro Auto Rub­ber

Pro Auto Rub­ber

In 1995, Pro Auto Rub­ber started pro­duc­ing au­to­mo­tive ex­tru­sion rub­ber prod­ucts. At the time, there was a clear gap in the mar­ket for the sup­ply of ex­tru­sion rub­ber prod­ucts such as door seals in the world of clas­sic car restora­tion.

Nowa­days, the com­pany still sup­plies spe­cial­ist prod­ucts for the clas­sic car seg­ment, but the busi­ness has evolved and ex­panded into many other sec­tors, too. Pro Auto Rub­ber now spe­cialises in the fol­low­ing fields: au­to­mo­tive, bus and truck body, rail­way, mil­i­tary, canopy, con­tainer, con­struc­tion, garage door man­u­fac­tur­ers, orig­i­nal equip­ment sub sup­ply for ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers, gas­ket man­u­fac­tur­ers, so­lar in­dus­try, ship­ping, build­ing and the min­ing in­dus­try.

The head­quar­ters are based in Boks­burg in Gaut­eng, but it also has of­fi­cial out­lets in Cape Town, George, Pine­town and Dur­ban. Ad­di­tion­ally, Pro Auto Rub­ber prod­ucts are stocked by in­de­pen­dent agents such as used car parts out­lets, across South Africa. So from hum­ble be­gin­nings in a garage, the com­pany’s foot­print is now com­pre­hen­sive.

Although Pro Auto Rub­ber has ex­panded into many other ar­eas of rub­ber prod­ucts, chances are pretty good that the com­pany will be able to sup­ply you with rub­ber ex­tru­sion prod­ucts for that ob­scure vin­tage car in your back­yard. On the sub­ject of au­to­mo­tive: it has re­cently added a range of prac­ti­cal new car prod­ucts to its in­ven­tory.

This in­cludes rub­ber­based lin­ers for the load bay of pop­u­lar bakkies such as the Toy­ota Hilux and Ford Ranger, as well as full in­te­rior floor­ing rub­ber so­lu­tions.

RUB­BER? WHAT RUB­BER?

Natural rub­ber is har­vested from a trop­i­cal tree, a process that has been in ex­is­tence for more than a cen­tury. How­ever, the huge di­ver­sity of mod­ern rub­ber-type ap­pli­ca­tions has re­sulted in a range of al­ter­na­tive prod­ucts be­ing de­vel­oped. These in­clude syn­thetic rub­ber, sil­i­cone, eth­yl­ene propy­lene di­ene monomer (EPDM), ni­trile (NBR), ni­trile food qual­ity (NFQ), neo­prene (CR) and polyvinyl chlo­ride (PVC).

Pro Auto Rub­ber of­fers a grow­ing range of seal­ing systems. Dif­fer­ent ap­pli­ca­tions in di­verse weather con­di­tions re­quire that com­pa­nies sup­ply the most ideal solution to spe­cific con­di­tions, a task right up the al­ley for this com­pany’s ded­i­cated team of tech­nol­o­gists,

op­er­at­ing in state-ofthe-art lab­o­ra­to­ries.

This en­sures that all the de­vel­op­ment is done in-house, un­der one roof: from the chem­i­cal re­search and de­vel­op­ment, to the de­sign and fab­ri­ca­tion of spe­cific tool­ing for the cre­ation of rub­ber ex­tru­sions.

BUT HOW IS IT MADE?

The raw ma­te­ri­als that make up the dif­fer­ent com­pounds are sourced from all over the world. For in­stance, a con­tainer filled with poly­mer ar­rives at the factory ev­ery month, all the way from the East. The ma­te­ri­als are mixed in the plant. Once mixed, a com­pound is formed, and then, a raw, syn­thetic rub­ber pro­duced.

Next, the raw syn­thetic rub­ber heads to the ex­truder and a die for a spe­cific ex­tru­sion is fit­ted. To sim­plify this, this die is sim­i­lar to a cookie presser. There are dif­fer­ent shapes and sizes of ‘presser’, and once the syn­thetic rub­ber is pushed through the ex­truder, it takes on the shape of that spe­cific die. Next, the prod­uct heads into the cur­ing line, where it is first cured by mi­crowave and then by heat.

At the end of the cur­ing line, the fin­ished prod­uct is coiled, pack­aged and dis­patched to the rel­e­vant ware­house or out­let.

Some num­bers: the factory pro­cesses around 60 tons of rub­ber per month. Dur­ing busy pe­ri­ods – like when Pro Auto Rub­ber had to sup­ply 300 000 me­tres of rub­ber ex­tru­sions to a com­pany build­ing a so­lar power sta­tion – the factory runs 24/7.

Pro Auto Rub­ber’s cat­a­logue boasts more than 2 000 pro­files... so that’s more than 2 000 dif­fer­ent types of rub­ber ex­tru­sions the com­pany can pro­duce. If there is not a pro­file for a spe­cific need, and there is enough sup­ply po­ten­tial, it will be de­vel­oped. The com­pany has also formed part­ner­ships with sev­eral in­ter­na­tional firms.

One of those com­pa­nies is based in China, and sup­plies Pro Auto Rub­ber with rub­ber ex­tru­sions with metal in­ser­tions em­bed­ded in­side the rub­ber. How­ever, Pro Auto Rub­ber, through its man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner, Hud­son Rub­ber, will soon in­tro­duce the same man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­nol­ogy to be able to do the same here in South Africa.

And what about the au­to­mo­tive rub­ber ex­tru­sions, which orig­i­nally spawned this com­pany? To­day, Pro Auto Rub­ber sells about 20 000 me­tres of au­to­mo­tive rub­ber prod­ucts such as door seals ev­ery month. This com­pany’s ori­gin is courtesy of the au­to­mo­tive sec­tor, and although it has ex­panded into many dif­fer­ent ar­eas as times and de­mands have changed, it’s still good to know it has not for­saken the very roots that laid the foun­da­tions of its cur­rent suc­cess.

Main, left: Pro Auto Rub­ber’s head of­fice in Hughes, Boks­burg. Above: Be­sides serv­ing as na­tional hub for the com­pany, there is also a walk-in sec­tion for cus­tomers look­ing for rub­ber prod­ucts. Be­low, clock­wise from top left: The com­pany has more than 2 000 rub­ber ex­tru­sion pro­files in its cat­a­logue. The com­pany has grown to the ex­tent that the re­tail and man­u­fac­tur­ing di­vi­sions are now sep­a­rate busi­nesses – the man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany is called Hud­son Rub­ber. Rub­ber load bin lin­ers are new in the Pro Auto Rub­ber cat­a­logue. The raw syn­thetic rub­ber is fed through the ex­truder, fit­ted with a spe­cific die.

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