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Kris Kolb, vice president of sales and marketing for company’s U.S division, talks about some of these recent developments, their significance towards Lamon’s philosophy of embracing a global marketplace, and why he feels 2014 will be a big year for the Houston-based manufacturer. Steve Engelhardt reports.
Established in 1947, Lamons began to build its identity as a distributor for gaskets and sealing materials. “We would buy gaskets and perform light manufacturing in order to support our relatively local marketplace” says Kolb, adding, “after a relatively short period of time, we began to develop our own advanced production processes for metal gaskets and this has transformed us into the gasket manufacturing powerhouse that Lamons is today.”
Over the last 60 years Lamons has grown our manufacturing capability for metallic and semi-metallic gaskets and is considered a premier provider for quality and local service. In addition, Lamons also opted to enter into the fastener market as well, a move Kolb says was quite “unique, and was an opportunity that we identified early as an extremely valuable complementary item to our core product line” referring to the fact that when most of their customer base would order gaskets from them, they would also be in need of bolts as well. “It gave customers a one-stop-shop option, increased the efficiency and quality of our business, and aptly fed our overall desire to grow our company into a global player.”
It was ambition that largely fueled the company then, and Lamons hasn’t looked back since, expanding its customer base, product line, and overall global reach in becoming a ‘go-to’ option for companies all over the world. And yet, while a hunger for increased business is what initially spurred the company’s growth, it’s been consistent innovation and strategic expansions that have sustained the steady flow of orders coming in and going out of Lamon’s production facilities.
Given that they cater to a global audience, and operate in a business where speed of delivery is key, the company has established satellite facilities around the world to ensure that when a need arises for an order of gaskets or fasteners, there’s a Lamons building right around the corner. “A huge part of our business relies on our ability to deliver product immediately, as generally gaskets and bolts aren’t thought of until the very end of a process,” he says, adding, “in response to this, we have set up a branch network around the world that are stocked with the proper equipment and skilled labor to produce locally and get the product to the customer quickly.” He says that when looking at businesses like Exxon and Dow Chemical, one will find that at the majority of their branch locations, which include Brazil, China, and Europe, is the presence of a Lamons facility nearby.
Reflecting this strategy of impacting both domestic and foreign markets was the company’s recently purchasing of Thailand-based Tat Lee Ltd., a manufacturer and distributer of standard and specialty gaskets, as well as the opening of a brand new local manufacturing facility in Pascagoula, Miss. “We have the largest market share of spiral wound gaskets in the U.S., and we remain committed to feeding that stream of business, but have also embraced the importance of an international presence as well,” he says, adding, “if you looked at us 15 years ago, our presence outside U.S. borders was minimal, but we clearly have shifted towards a much farther-reaching impact across the world’s markets.”
Encompassing these secondary service facilities, are the company’s four main production plants spread out across North America, with two located in Houston Tex, a third in Golden, Colo., and the fourth in Sarnia, Canada. “Our business is associated with fast turnaround, and these facilities have the machine and man power to handle it,” he says, adding, “we ensure efficiency by segregating our internal processes, between hot orders that need to happen quickly and scheduled orders that may be larger in volume, but have longer lead times.” Kolb says they have recently employed a bevy of lean initiatives to polish their production practices, and have made strong investments towards becoming a vertically integrated business. “There were a lot of products we traditionally relied upon other suppliers to manufacture for us, which was a liability not in our best interests,” Kolb says, adding, “When you look at the types of gaskets and fasteners we provide today, our product line and production capabilities are more complete than any other related company out there.” Lamons’ latest acquisition consisted of a sheet gasket material manufacturing operation based in Bangalore, India. This facility formerly identified as Basrur was a small family-owned business which was known for high quality and supplied major OEMs such as Bosch and Cummins. With a major focus on the automotive sector and with stringent TS certifications, Basrur is synonymous with high quality at a competitive price. A unique attribute for Basrur is that it is a relatively new operation and asbestos based products have never been processed there. Among other sheet gasket manufacturers in the world, this is a unique characteristic which influenced Lamons decision to move forward with the acquisition. In early 2014, Lamons Basrur was relocated into a state of the art facility capable of handling the increased volume associated with Lamons’ global network. “We continue to add larger calendars for increased capacity and add equipment to meet our customer demand” Kolb states.
And that product line has only continued to expand, with Lamons developing several groundbreaking products just within the last year. One of these products is the Fire Safe Isotek™ Defender ™ Isolation Gasket, which Kolb refers to as, “our most successively-launched product in the history of our company.”
The Defender™ FS’s design and technology primarily focuses on a premium Kammprofile design, which maintains high compressive strength while also proving its worth as a material for bolted joint assembly using ASME flanges and related clamp loads. The integral core design is made based on the EN 12560-6 specification, the Kammprofile, and has shown the lowest recorded leak rates associated with any isolation gasket design available in the market today.
In addition, Lamons also recently unveiled a new Matrix line of biaxially oriented PTFE (polytetraflouroethylene) gasket material. Designed for use in critical piping systems where superior chemical resistance and performance is needed, the resultant biaxial orientation of the material creates a unique strength where both the longitudinal and transverse directions are equally strong. “The result of it all is a premium gasket material that gives users excellent creep and chemical resistance,” Kolb says.
The new line of sophisticated products represent Lamons’ strong commitment to continuous research and development, a facet of the company Kolb attributes to both an innovative team of engineers, and the strategic decision of having branch locations so close to their customers around the world.
“We have the strongest applications engineering team in the world, and because we work so closely with the end users in such a vast variety of markets, it gives us great perspective of current and future needs,” he says, adding, “feedback from the customer is key to our success and we reflect that in the way we improve upon our products.”
For Lamons, it’s a company that has come a long way, and for as much growth as they’ve experienced, it appears as though they are far from slowing down. “Looking across our product line, we’re really unmatched by anyone in the world right now, in terms of breadth of product,” Kolb says, concluding, “to know that we started as a small, humble gasket company in Houston, Texas and have grown into what we are today, it’s something the company and our employees are extremely proud of.”