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RIM Polymers goes from regional to global domination

Rim Polymers' executive vice-president Oei Han Tjing (centre) with technology director Lee Thiam Chye at Henderson Industrial Park. The firm entered Brazil and Mexico last year, and has identified the US as a "promising market".
Rim Polymers' executive vice-president Oei Han Tjing (centre) with technology director Lee Thiam Chye at Henderson Industrial Park. The firm entered Brazil and Mexico last year, and has identified the US as a "promising market".ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Having already gained a firm foothold in the Asia-Pacific, Rim Polymers Industries decided it was time to extend its reach globally. Xin Yun finds out how it came up with a plan for the future and identified markets such as the United States and Mexico for its growth strategy.

Nestled in the Henderson Industrial Park, which houses a number of big and small names alike, are the offices of Rim Polymers Industries.

The home-grown firm may not be a household name, but it is in fact a top global polyurethane solutions specialist. It designs and builds polyurethane machines as well as entire plants for firms to create custom products, usually used for automotive interior parts such as steering wheels, and also refrigerators, freezers and cold room panels.

The firm has been developing its own polyurethane machinery since 2000, and over the years has firmly established itself in the Asia-Pacific. A few years ago, it decided to plant its footprints further afield.

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So in 2012, the firm started active discussions with IE Singapore about their expansion plans beyond Asia, which is one of the three global polyurethane markets. The others are the United States and Europe.

Executive vice-president Oei Han Tjing said: "They invited us on mission trips, and we spent time collecting information together. After one year, we came together to brainstorm and come up with a masterplan."

From these brainstorm sessions, Rim Polymers identified the Americas as the next market to grow in, and developed a five-year globalisation map after market studies.

"Our competitors are from Germany, so to fight in Europe is quite tough. Since Europe was also in bad shape, so we decided it wasn't our priority. The Americas are virgin grounds for us but also for our competitors, so we should stand a better chance."

With IE's support in 2013, the firm started to market and release its products and services in that region. "We successfully sold 10 polyurethane plants in the US. It's good that we have a comparative advantage," Mr Oei said.

These include plants for making components for major companies in the automotive industry, and industrial freezers for instance.

Having a strong foundation in a new market gave Rim Polymers - which has 25 people in Singapore and more than 50 in other countries that include China and South Korea - the confidence to enter Mexico and Brazil last year.

Mr Oei said: "Business in Mexico is not bad, and we are entering it to explore the market. A lot of American companies are shifting their car or partial production plants there because of lower costs and special export rights."

He notes that although Brazil's economy has been less than conducive, the firm set up a representative office there and has already found distribution partners.

 
 
 

"Although times are bad, it's about cultivating the market. In bad times, people tend to have more time to listen to you."

Mr Oei is optimistic about Rim Polymers' growth in Brazil, as he expects the market to recover some time next year, "and we should stand a better chance in the market".

"This is part of our plan, to move into phase two with IE. Their office in Sao Paulo and Mexico has supported us a lot, and the New York office has also given us a lot of help in the US."

Besides the automotive industry, Rim Polymers' other focus is the cold chain industry, which refers to a cold storage network - which includes refrigerated trucks and fridge cabinets for supermarkets - that is crucial in keeping things such as vaccines or food at certain low temperatures.

The firm has identified the US as a promising market, and is planning to enter the market with its patented pre-mix unit of cyclopentane plants and equipment. Cyclopentane is an ozone-friendly blowing agent which is used when creating insulation foam in fridges.

Mr Oei said the US has resisted using the highly explosive agent for decades, but in recent years has changed its tune. "I stand a better chance than my German competitors because my equipment is relatively cheaper, as it is made in Asia."

The plan to globalise also includes increasing its revenue by 2020. Mr Oei said: "The group has an annual turnover of $25 million, and we plan to at least double that in the next four years."


Find out more about other companies that have transformed their business overseas and how IE can help – http://www.iesingapore.gov.sg/Assistance

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2016, with the headline 'RIM Polymers goes from regional to global domination'. Print Edition | Subscribe