Innovation in Action
Seaman Corporation is at the forefront of the innovation, design and manufacture of industrial fabrics, with the films, coatings and applied fabric engineering technology its customers need. Seaman Corporation is committed to advancing the market to provide the best products and services.
Seaman Corporation has a sixty-five-year legacy as a U.S.-based manufacturer but has changed over time to become a complex and adaptive entity. The company has created a new approach to product development and has invested significantly to achieve those ends.
Operationally, Seaman Corporation relies on state-of-the-art equipment, high-grade materials, the expertise of its team of associates and proprietary technology to drive innovation, creativity and the technological strategies to deliver high-performance solutions to its customers in every industry it serves.
The company has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 1949. From two sewing machines, a kitchen oven and the entrepreneurial spirit of founder Norm Seaman, the company went from what could best be described as an in-home science experiment with chemicals and textiles to a market leader.
As CEO John Crum explained of Seaman Corporation’s founding, “Norm Seaman started playing with textiles and chemicals in the kitchen. He applied PVC to textiles, and he put that in the oven and diffused the PVC. From the very beginning of our company, Norm Seaman was an entrepreneur with great curiosity, taking PVC and plasticizer and making a product,” Crum noted.
Seaman believed he discovered something truly special and all he needed next was a market for his products. From there, he began market research and started scaling up operations. The high-performance product was launched in the truck tarp market where it experienced great early success.
The Seaman Corporation team grew quickly to include chemists and other skilled professionals. As Seaman was not a chemist, he understood that he would require the expertise and knowledge of a team of scientists to develop the products that would carry the company forward.
In the mid-1970s, a new chemical formulation was developed, and as a result, geomembrane liners were added to Seaman Corporation’s repertoire. Additionally, the membrane was later found to be useful in the roofing industry and has proven its value.
“That was in 1979, and I will say, today, that is the best roofing membrane in the world. We have something we designed in 1979 that is still intact today. So the formula that we put together – you don’t hear of thirty-year roofs, and we have products in that roofing space that are thirty-six years old, and we really don’t know how long they are going to continue to last,” Crum shared.
Seaman Corporation’s fabrics are engineered and manufactured to withstand rugged environments, severe weather, extreme temperatures and harsh chemicals. “So we went from the truck tarp market to architectural fabric, then geomembrane, then the roof combination of geomembrane and architectural fabrics, and we’ve been in other markets,” Crum noted.
Though some of its earlier products were collapsible coolers and a cowboy costume for Norm’s son, Seaman Corporation now lends its FiberTite® Roofing Systems, XR® Geomembranes and Shelter-Rite® Architectural Fabrics to products including truck tarps, roofing material, pool covers, dock seal and even fabric for inflatable boats. Seaman Corporation is also proud to serve the needs of the American military.
“Think back to the Gulf War or even after 9/11. Seaman Corporation went from a five-day-a-week operation to a 24/7 operation for the support of the military. Not many companies have that dedication and are able to do that,” said Crum. He noted that as a U.S.-based manufacturer, Seaman Corporation will always stand behind the country’s military and government.
Every innovative product is built on a combination of technologies: fabric formation (knitting, weaving), compounding, coating, printing, finishing and fabrication. Some of Seaman Corporation’s products help the environment in anaerobic digesters, as fabric for baffles to clean and control oil spills, or as green roofing materials.
Sales associates in China sell Seaman Corporation’s engineered products and architectural fabrics for environmental purposes, Crum explained. “China has a big pollution problem, and the air is not so clean, so they have indoor bubbles. Folks can go in, and they can get out of the pollution.” Seaman Corporation has several of these inflated bubbles.
At the core of Seaman Corporation’s product delivery is a commitment to world-class customer care through leadership, customer satisfaction and quality. Through these three things, Seaman Corporation consistently supplies outstanding products and services.
“If you really look at the core of Seaman Corporation, the products are one of those, but the second is we are so customer-centered, we send our technical people into the field. A lot of companies, the salesperson identifies what the application is and brings it back to the business. Inside the Seaman Corporation, we send our tech people to interact with the customer,” described Crum.
By solving problems at its customers’ facilities, Seaman Corporation endeavors to develop long-standing partnerships. The same approach applies to dealings with its suppliers, ninety to ninety-five percent of which are domestic. “The domestic supply of yarn in the U.S. does a very good job for us.” American-made yarn companies offer quick delivery and competitive prices.
Seaman Corporation is vertically integrated which helps to ensure dependable delivery. “We take yarns, chemicals and take responsibility for our processes along the way. That allows us to control the lead times for the products.” Crum said. “Vertical integration allows us to respond quickly where others may have to hand it to other suppliers.”
“We have full control of the manufacturing cycle,” explained Crum. “We have the staff to design any product you want, so as long as we can understand the application, then we can have our chemist design the product.” The company maintains the in-house expertise to formulate standard or customized solutions to meet its customers’ diverse needs.
“We are a mid-size company, but if you really look at it, we have systems – the inventory systems, planning or even our computer systems – that are very much like those of big, multi-million dollar companies,” stated Crum. He has worked for such companies and says that Seaman Corporation is not only comparable but impressive.
Seaman Corporation has made significant investments in its processes and equipment. Nearly $50 million has been invested, and the results are worth it. For a company of its size, it is no wonder that Seaman Corporation can compete with some of the world’s largest. The company office has also been revamped to generate more of an open concept environment to allow the interchange of ideas and to encourage innovation across its many departments.
Seaman Corporation operates by lean manufacturing principles and remains dedicated to continuous improvement to bring innovation and greater value to its customers. “We’re constantly improving our processes to make better and better products,” said Crum. He credited the lean approach for Seaman Corporation’s reliable delivery and ability to reduce costs.
Seaman Corporation is on a growth path, and the sky is the limit. “We want to be in new markets, and we have a staff of multiple people who are looking at different markets asking, ‘How do we apply the technology we have?’ ‘What technologies would help us grow markets?’” said Crum.
Seaman Corporation continues to innovate and seek out value-engineered fabric opportunities around the world that allow it to grow and expand its abilities while adding value to customers’ supply chains.
In service delivery, Seaman Corporation’s people make all the difference. Crum credits these associates with much of Seaman Corporation’s success. Crum himself has been with Seaman for nineteen years and is the first non-family member to be at the company’s helm.
“If you are an associate of Seaman Corporation, we all feel like we are involved. We are pleasing the customer, whether it is John Crum, CEO, or whether it’s Jason that’s out on the line or Mary that’s answering the phone, our job here it to take care of the customers,” Crum noted. “If you were to talk to one of our associates on the floor or in the office, you would sense a passion for the products and a passion for the company.”
The passion is shared by everyone in the company, including Crum and the Seaman family. It begins at the top with Chairman of the Board Richard Seaman and permeates through the entire operation. The company has developed a unique culture, one that stems from being a family-owned entity with a vision for multigenerational success. Seaman Corporation strives to offer its associates a safe workspace in which they can thrive professionally and help grow the business.
Richard Seaman was recently recognized as the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the family business category. This is a real testament to the third generation of management at Seaman Corporation and reinforces the company’s reputation in the industry.
“It represents our culture for innovation and willingness to push boundaries of our thinking. We need to keep that culture alive. It’s a great award for the company and Dick Seaman because it recognizes that we are a company of innovation, a company that has passion for what we do,” said Crum proudly.