Rubber and Plastics Hose and Belting

SIC 3052

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category covers establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing rubber and plastics hose and belting, including garden hoses. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing rubber tubing are classified in SIC 3061: Molded, Extruded, and Lathe-Cut Mechanical Rubber Goods and SIC 3069: Fabricated Rubber Products, Not Elsewhere Classified. Those companies manufacturing plastics tubing are classified in SIC 3082: Unsupported Plastics Profile Shapes. Those establishments manufacturing flexible metallic hoses are classified in SIC 3599: Industrial and Commercial Machinery and Equipment, Not Elsewhere Classified.

Industry Snapshot

In the mid-2000s, approximately 185 U.S. companies participated in the manufacture of $4.3 billion in hoses and belting products. Companies range from a myriad of small shops filling niche markets to several firms producing broad product lines with sales approaching or exceeding $1 billion annually.

Hose and belting products are used in a wide variety of industries. Hoses are used in such varied markets as automobiles, construction, and oil and gas. Transmission belting is used to help power cars, industrial machinery, agricultural equipment, household appliances, and construction equipment. Flat belting, commonly known as conveyor belting, is found in traditional markets, such as mining and material handling, as well as in lighter-weight applications, such as food handling and airline luggage conveyor systems.

Economies of scale are difficult to achieve except for some of the larger firms because a large number of products need short runs, and many of the lines have differences in chemical compounds and machinery needs. States with the greatest volume of hose and belt production in the mid-2000s included California, Ohio, and North Carolina.

Rubber remains the predominant material in the market, accounting for between 70 and 80 percent of the products. For example, rubber is the main material for hoses, except in garden hoses, where plastic takes the majority of the share. Other materials, though, are expected to make some inroads as higher-performing products are needed.

Organization and Structure

Much of the structure of the hose and belting industry is organized around whether the product gets to its end user either in the original equipment (OE) or replacement market. In the automotive sector, the OE market is fairly straightforward because most of the products are sold directly to the automakers.

However, sales to the aftermarket are a bit more complicated, going through either a three-step or a two-step distribution process. In the three-step process, the manufacturer sells his hose or belting to a wholesale distributor that handles automotive parts lines. The distributor in turn sells the product to what is known as a jobber, such as the NAPA store chain. The final step is for the jobber to sell the hose and belting to the installer, such as the repair shop that does work on automobiles. Some manufacturers have increasingly tried to shorten the process by skipping the initial step and selling directly to the jobber.

Historically, however, this has been the most efficient way to get to market, ensuring that there is plenty of inventory in the aftermarket so that people can get the necessary parts for their car at almost any time. Nonetheless, hose and belt manufacturers have had to shift with the times as auto repair and service shops have evolved. While the number of outlets for repair service has remained virtually unchanged, the makeup has changed considerably.

The number of full-service gas stations that provide service and repair declined significantly due to the increasing domination of the market by self-serve, pay-at-the-pump stations, but the number of repair-only shops has grown. Moreover, import car owners used to be much more likely to get their automobiles fixed at the dealer, but that changed as repair shops became more attuned to repairing imports. In addition, do-it-yourselfers find a plethora of parts, including belts and hoses, at numerous after-market big-box parts stores, such as AutoZone, O'Reilly's, and Carquest stores.

Through all these changes, the hose and belt makers continued to ensure that their distribution system gets the appropriate parts to the proper outlets in a timely fashion. Distribution also plays an important role in the industrial hose and belt markets. Many of these distributors also serve as fabricators, placing needed attachments and accessories onto the basic hose and belts for their final usage. The distributors in this sector also are more likely to play a role in OE accounts, especially for an account that needs to have local inventory. As for the aftermarket, a major portion of the business is sold through distribution sectors, although some hose and belt makers do sell some product directly to the end user.

Distributors also play a major role in times of overcapacity. While only four to five firms make broad lines across many industries, there are enough niche manufacturers to ensure stiff competition in all product areas. This gives the distributor an advantage in getting a lower price on products.

Types of Products.
A hose is a flexible pipe or conduit that serves as a means to move material from one place to another. The three basic elements of a hose are the tube, carcass, and cover. The tube is the part of the hose that comes in contact with the fluid and therefore must be resistant to the material. The carcass gives the hose strength to withstand any forces, external or internal, that might be encountered, while the cover protects the product from environmental forces.

Although hoses can be referred to by their use, such as gasoline, air, or garden hoses, manufacturers and users generally classify the products by the method of reinforcement. The common hose types include the following.

Knitted Hose.
A knitted hose is a flexible product knitted in an open-loop manner. The garden hose is a typical example of this kind of product. This type generally is subjected only to low pressure.

Braided Hose.
One of the more common hose types, a braided hose is produced when a single or multiple ends of yarn cord or wire are woven over the tube. The size and type of reinforcement material, as well as the angle, help establish the strength of the hose. These hose types find a variety of usage, from air, water, garden, spray, or low-pressure liquid transfer, to more demanding applications like hydraulic, steam, and high-pressure transfer of liquid and gases.

Wrapped Fabric Hose.
A wrapped fabric hose is reinforced with an impregnated woven fabric that can be applied by hand or machine. This makes for a stiff, bulky hose that is commonly used in suction or vacuum applications.

Wire Spiraled Hose.
Wire spiraled hoses are used for high-impulse pressures. Wires are placed in opposite directions to counter the twisting effect of applying the spiral wire.

Woven Jacket Hose.
Woven jacket hoses are often used as fire hoses. Looms are used for the circular weaving of jackets for the hose. The design allows the hose to lie flat when not transporting water, for more efficient storage.

Hand-Built Hose.
Hand-built hoses are large and have great strength and excellent crush resistance. Uses include rotary drill hoses and oil suction and discharge hoses.

Power transmission belts are more commonly known as V-belts. Given their name because they transmit power and motion between V-shaped sheaves, the belts are made in numerous sizes and lengths. V-belts are preferred where there is limited space. Major applications are in automotive, industrial, agriculture, fractional horsepower, and recreational uses. In automotive use, a poly-V, or serpentine belt, has become popular in newer car models.

Flat belting is used in some limited power transmission applications, but the overwhelming use for these products is in conveying uses. Basic components of conveyor belts include the carcass, which bears the load and is usually made of several piles of rubber-coated textile fabric or a single layer of steel cable; the rubber cover, which must resist wear, cracking, and element pressures; the breaker, which improves adhesion between the carcass and cover; and the skim coating, used to hold the load-bearing plies together.

Conveyor belts are used for a variety of purposes, including the grocery market check-out, coal mines where coal is conveyed from deep within the mine, and growing applications in recycling and waste management programs.

Background and Development

This industry has undergone significant change over the past several decades. In the automotive market, which is the top market for hose and transmission belting, a catalog of about 50 V-belts and 100 hoses covered most of the cars on the road shortly after World War II. Cars became more complicated, however, and smaller cars that required smaller engine compartments assumed increased market share beginning in the 1970s and 1980s. Hose and belt manufacturers responded with products that conformed to the new size and weight demands of the automotive market.

The serpentine belt made great inroads over the years. While designs at one time had several V-belts in the engine compartment, producers discovered that one serpentine belt could drive a number of accessories simultaneously, resulting in weight and space savings. In 1982, there were approximately 50 sizes of serpentine belts; a decade later that number had increased to about 250.

Belts and hoses last much longer in the modern era of manufacturing. Such products used to last 10,000 miles. In the twenty-first century, however, hoses and belts commonly last for 40,000 miles or more of use.

The value of industry shipments grew steadily throughout the 1990s, peaking at $4.48 billion in 1999 before declining slightly to $4.24 billion in 2000. The cost of materials increased from $2.04 billion in 1999 to $2.08 billion in 2000. The total number of employees in the industry decreased from 26,030 to 25,175 over the same period, and payroll costs decreased from $841 million to $821 million.

The state of the rubber hose and belting industry is directly related to the general economy. As the economy grows or declines, so does the rubber hose and belting industry. This industry is also related to the seasons of the year. Demand, especially for hoses, tends to increase in the third quarter as consumers prepare their vehicles for autumn. Demand then tends to slack off in November and December.

Although the automotive industry traditionally represented the largest market for hoses and belting, aerospace also became a significant area for growth in this industry in the late 1990s. As the aerospace industry grew in response to increasing demand for commercial aircraft, the need for hoses and belts to be used in aircraft also increased.

The value of shipments totaled $4.3 billion in 2005, up slightly from $4.05 billion in 2004 and $3.9 billion in both 2002 and 2003. The major categories of products included hoses for on- and off-highway motor vehicles, which accounted for approximately 21 percent of total value of shipments; rubber and plastic transmission belts and belting (except flat), with 19 percent; flat plastic and rubber belts and belting, with 17 percent; and rubber and plastic water hoses, with 14 percent.

During the mid-2000s, the aftermarket sale of belts and hoses continued to be dominated by professional mechanics. Only 30 percent of automotive consumers installed belts and hoses for themselves, and the remaining 70 percent looked to a professional for installation and purchasing advice. During 2004, auto chains reported a 2.2 percent increase in belts and hoses sales, while the overall industry grew 2.5 percent. National brands accounted for more than 75 percent of sales, while private brands captured 24 percent of the market.

The industry was affected by the increasing use of poly-V belts and the declining use of standard V-belts. Although a substantial market remained for V-belts for older vehicles, new engines and components were increasingly relying on the more versatile poly-V belts.

Current Conditions

According to industry statistics, there were an estimated 370 establishments engaged in manufacturing rubber and plastics hose and belting, including garden hoses, valued at $653.5 million in 2008. Industry-wide employment was 24,562 workers. On average, there were 73 workers per establishment, generating $3.7 million in revenues. The majority of manufacturers were located in California, Texas, Ohio, Michigan, and Florida. Collectively, these five states accounted for nearly 36 percent in industry share, with Michigan responsible for $138 million in industry sales.

Rubber and plastics hose and beltings producers employed 6,225 workers and shipped $196.8 million in goods. Producers of rubber hose shipped $39.7 million in goods, while rubber belting manufacturers shipped $69.4 million in finished products. Plastic automobile hose producers shipped $113.8 million in products.

In the late 2000s, national brands fell to 62 percent of total sales, while private brands fell to two percent of the market. Sales of both national and private held 35 percent of the market. Only eight percent of sales were derived directly from the manufacturer, while 75 percent were purchased directly from automobile dealerships.

Industry Leaders

Founded in 1911, Denver-based Gates Corporation was family-owned until 1996 when it became a wholly owned subsidiary of Tomkins plc, a London-based company with approximately $4 billion in sales in 2006. At the time of its acquisition, Gates was the world's largest non-tire rubber company. Tomkins subsequently added Stant Corporation, Schrader-Bridgeport, and ACD Tridon to create a dominant presence in the industry. The company reported revenues of $5.5 billion in 2008, with the U.S. responsible for more than half of Tomkins' total revenues. Roughly 10 percent of its sales came from Detroit, Michigan's Chrysler, Ford Motor Co., and General Motors.

Mark IV Industries is a leading supplier of OE to the automotive industry worldwide. In 2006, the company posted revenues of $1.2 billion and employed 4,600. BC Partners, a European private equity fund, controlled Mark IV Industries. It was acquired by Sun Capital Partners in 2008. The privately held company reported revenues of $1.3 billion in 2008 with 4,632 employees. In 2009, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and emerged just under six months later in November.

The rubber and tire giants Bridgestone, Goodyear, and Michelin also manufactured belts and hoses along with a wide variety of rubber goods.


Total employment in the industry was estimated at 20,958 in 2005, down from 23,597 in 2002. Of all employees, about 16,315 were production workers earning approximately $15.74 an hour, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Other occupations in the industry include chemists, product designers, engineers, and salespeople.

Research and Technology

Rubber hoses, which continue to be used in the overwhelming majority of industrial hose products, face increased competition from other materials. A number of factors drove the need for new materials, including the evolution of some of the traditional applications of the product. For example, alternate fuels and higher operating temperatures bring different requirements for hose products. As states begin to require higher alcohol content in fuel to reduce emissions in the 2000s, hose materials must change as well. Specialty rubbers, plastic, Teflon, and nylon are among materials expected to challenge commodity rubber.

Like hoses, belts are expected to be impacted by the shrinking of auto engine compartments. Because of hotter temperatures, belt makers will be forced to turn to new materials that will withstand the environment in which they are used. Some of the commodity types of rubber also will face competition from specialty rubbers and plastics.

In the mid-2000s, the industry was being shaped by the materials used to make belts and hoses, as well as the increased quality of products. As automobiles and machinery became more efficient and more environmentally friendly, engines ran hotter, causing tubes to crack. Although the overall manufacturing process remained relatively unchanged, the industry responded by improving performance and durability by incorporating more heat-resistant materials. Although rubber remained the primary component, additives were introduced, such as the component EPDM, which helps protect the hoses from ozone and heat.

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