BLUFFTON — From its humble beginnings 31 years ago with five employees in a storefront in downtown Bluffton, SumiRiko Ohio Inc., formerly known as DTR Industries, today boasts a workforce of nearly 700 employees and a global presence in the automotive supply industry.
A partnership between Tokai Rubber of Japan and the U.S.-based Duramax Rubber led to the creation of the company, which in its infancy manufactured rubber hose products for the automotive industry.
A year after its birth, the company relocated to a newly constructed, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility on Snider Road on the northeast edge of Bluffton. The product line also shifted over the years, from rubber hose products to anti-vibration bushing and engine mounts. That emphasis remains today, although the manufacturing process has changed significantly.
“We now produce our own rubber in-house,” said Steve Unterbrink, executive vice president of SumiRiko Ohio. “Our products in the beginning were more conventional rubber and metal bushings, where now we produce liquid-filled engine mounts that are more sophisticated and respond better to what how a car’s engine is performing.”
The company counts Toyota and Honda among its largest customers, followed closely by Nissan and Subaru. And, beginning in 2020, SumiRiko Ohio will begin making parts for the Ford Bronco SUV and Ford Ranger pickup truck lines. None of those products, regrettably, are bound for Ford’s Lima Engine Plant, Unterbrink said.
Following a surge of sales in the 1990s, when the Bluffton plant’s workforce soared to nearly 800 workers, the marketplace leveled out slightly. But Unterbrink said the workforce is once again on the rise. Because of new product lines, the company currently is in need of 30 to 50 new employees.
Unterbrink, who started at the plant 30 years ago and has risen through the ranks to his current management position, said the same advancement opportunities await new employees who exhibit a strong work ethic.
“Many of our employees have been here for a long time,” Unterbrink said. “Our associates are very dedicated to their work. They are the backbone of the company.”
SumiRiko is a division of Sumitomo Riko Company Limited, a global company which sells products in the automotive, electronics, infrastructure, housing environment and health/nursing sectors.
“Sumitomo Electric is kind of our grandparent company,” Unterbrink said. “They are very highly respected in the auto industry. Our parent company, Tokai Rubber, became Sumitomo Riko. While the name may have changed at our Bluffton facility, there’s been no buy-out and no management change. The name change is purely about branding.”