When Japanese automakers set up operations in the United States in 1980s they brought with them revolutionary engineering methods, innovative manufacturing processes, and a distinctly Eastern business philosophy. Additionally, they brought many of their suppliers because, after all, why come to America only to wait for components to arrive from the other side of the world? It was in 1989 that Sumitomo Metal and Nippon Pipe had the foresight to team up with Mitsui to found Seymour Tubing Inc. Today virtually all Japanese automakers – Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Subaru – use Seymour Tubing products.
In its 354,000-square-foot facility in Seymour, Ind., the company manufactures as-welded and cold drawn tubes cut to length and with additional processing (such as chamfering, forming, and machining) for a number of automotive applications. Some of the end uses are shock absorbers, rubber bushings, power steering systems, exhaust piping, stabilizing rods and seat frames. Meanwhile in its 180,000- square-foot facility in Dunlop, Tenn., Seymour Tubing makes carbon steel tubing used in the manufacture of shock absorbers, power steering cylinders, bushings, hydro-forming assemblies, and other automotive applications.
“We at Seymour Tubing understand the complexities of automotive manufacturing,” said Jerry Davis, director of marketing, Seymour Tubing, Inc. “Our customized steel tubing products are found in automobiles manufactured by most Japanese and American manufacturers, as well as some European manufacturers. While we employ leading-edge technology and process innovations, our success and stability can be traced back to proven methods employed since 1911 by Sumitomo Pipe & Tube (formerly Nippon Pipe Manufacturing Company.)”
Seymour Tubing’s motto of “precision to perfection” might be best exemplified by its Cold Draw or drawn over mandrel (DOM) steel tubing products. Its DOM unit focuses on cylinder tubes for shock absorbers, power steering tubing, steering column components, bushing tubes and other mechanical tubing. For each of these product lines precision is critical.
Cold draw is a process by which the size of tubing is altered to create a more precise and uniform product. Mechanical properties also can be adjusted according to customer requirements.
“Customers have very specific processes. For example, shock absorbers have an outer and an inner tube and the plunger effect has to be uniform in the outer tube, otherwise you have an oil leak,” said Davis. “By pulling tubes over plugs and through dies Seymour Tubing can simultaneously alter size and tighten the O.D., I.D. and W.T. tolerances and improve surface finish.”
Planning ahead, yet turning on a dime
Seymour Tubing’s High Frequency Welding (HFW) area operates with the latest equipment, efficient processes and a skilled work force. This careful meshing of technology and manpower gives the company and its customers the maximum return on machinery and human-resource investments. According to Davis one of the key differentiators for Seymour Tubing is the fact that it has an HFW mill on site, which allows the company to expedite orders far more efficiently than competitors.
“We have our HFW mill, cold draw process, and machining all under one roof, while competitors use different plants for each stage of the manufacturing process,” said Davis. “By having an integrated facility, we are better able to make overnight deliveries and last minute changes for special shipments.” Yet while Seymour Tubing can turn on a dime for its customers, the production cycle typically requires months of planning. Seymour Tubing maintains a three–shift operation to accommodate orders planned three months ahead.
“One of our goals is to make sure that we carry a safe inventory,” said Davis. “With the amount of processes that we go through we have to plan quite a bit ahead. So while we can receive an order today and ship parts tomorrow, it ultimately depends on the processing required.”
Davis credits the success of Seymour Tubing to its people, which includes the senior level business leaders with the parent company and the skilled employees on the assembly floor. Because of Sumitomo and Mitsui, Seymour Tubing has a decided strategic business advantage in that negotiations between Japanese automakers and their tier one suppliers customarily take place on Japanese soil. That ultimately leads to parts orders being fulfilled in the U.S.
“Our manufacturing specialists are craftsmen who take pride in their work applying painstaking attention to detail to create the most reliable steel tubing products in the market,” said Davis. “Seymour Tubing’s leadership and support staff are at the top of their game focusing on the future with an unwavering commitment to satisfying the needs of the customer today. By tapping into the wealth of knowledge, experience, and abilities resident in our work force, we are able to produce world-class automotive products guaranteed to meet or exceed our customers’ expectations.”
Davis added that all Seymour Tubing products are doing well, particularly bushings for anti-vibration systems and customized tubing for exhaust systems. The Dunlop facility is expected to reap the benefits of proximity as more and more Japanese automakers are establishing plants in the south. For example, Honda will be producing the Odyssey mini-van and the new SUV Pilot in Alabama, according to Davis.
“When we founded Seymour Tubing Inc. in 1989, we instilled in our employees the belief that our responsibility to customers goes well beyond just providing quality steel tubing,” said Davis. “We believe that every customer deserves value added service, on-time delivery, continuous process improvement, a commitment to product quality, and competitive pricing. Our belief in strategic partnerships with our customers continues to provide both Seymour Tubing and its customers with a distinct competitive advantage.”