By Eric Peterson | Feb 22, 2015
Hoses and rubber products
LaPorte, Indiana / Nephi Utah
Founded: 1985 (as NRP-Jones); Nephi Rubber Products
Employees: 200 (123 in Nephi)
Domestic manufacturing including in-house rubber production continues to set apart Nephi’s industrial hose provider from low-cost imports.
Since 1945, the Jones family have been in the hydraulic fittings business in Indiana, and got into heavy-duty hoses for oilfields and other industries because it was a natural pairing.
"They wanted to get fittings and hoses from a single source," says VP of Operations Mark Prast. "Now we sell to over 4,000 distributors. It went from a $10 million dollar company to a $40 million company."
The late Keith Jones started the parent company out of his garage as a part-time job doing work for Bendix Brakes in South Bend. The company bought Nephi Rubber Products in 1985 and NRP-Jones was born. Today the 240,000-square-foot factory is the company's only factory outside of LaPorte.
"The plant in Nephi has only had three owners in its history," says Prast. The plant opened in 1947 and has been a leader in hoses for rotary drilling since the early years. Today NRP-Jones makes a wide range of hoses for air, water, concrete and plaster, chemical and petroleum transfer, oil suction, hot asphalt, and other applications.
"It's a very diverse facility," says Prast of the Nephi plant. "We build everything from 3/16-inch I.D. [inside diameter] hose to 16???-inch I.D. hose. Very few facilities have that under one roof."
In tandem with its reputation in the oil patch for its rotary drilling hoses, the company innovated when it developed a fire-resistant blowout preventer hose for oil drilling in 2007. "Now the whole industry is that way," says Prast.
NRP-Jones also makes its own rubber in-house, an industry rarity. "We're mixing and making pounds and pounds of rubber that are our own recipes all day, every day," says Prast. "The biggest advantage we have is we supply our own raw materials for the most part. We basically control our own destiny as far as daily production goes."
For most of NRP-Jones' sectors, demand constantly oscillates. "The market changes every day," says Prast, who's been with the company since the early 1980s. "We have been blessed with a great staff."
Challenges: Competing with low-cost imports. "All of our competitors have moved a large portion -- if not all -- of their hose manufacturing offshore," says Prast. But there's demand for made in the U.S.A. "We have great support from customers, especially farmers who want a domestic product."
"We've been staving off having to buy our own facility offshore," he adds. "Instead of doing that, our solution is to make a more unique product."
Opportunities: The Nephi plant is expected to receive an American Petroleum Institute 16C certification by mid-2015. The designation would make it only the fourth certified facility worldwide. "That would solidify that plant's existence for a long time," says Prast.
Upgrades and automation also represent opportunities, he adds. "We're retooling the lines right now to make them more competitive and easier to operate."
Needs: Higher oil prices. "The oilfield situation has dampened our spirits," says Prast.
Workforce is another need. "Do we need workforce? Do we need better-trained people? Of course," says Prast. We're trying to draw employees from a community of 4,000 people." But there's a mitigating factor, he adds. "I've never seen a workforce that traveling 35 or 45 minutes doesn't usually phase them. We're trying to draw from a broad location, which is good, but so is everybody else."