Specification Rubber Products celebrates 50 years

Specification Rubber Products of Alabaster celebrated its 50th anniversary by opening the plant to its customers, retirees and local vendors for guided tours and a luncheon on Tuesday, May 1.

According to Specification Rubber Products President Steven Smith, the company was founded by four people in Alabaster in 1968 in response to a growing need for rubber gaskets and other sealing products. Smith said, at the time of its establishment, around 75 percent of the ductile iron pipe industry was located in Birmingham.

While it still primarily manufactures rubber gaskets and sealing products, Smith said it has since branched out to serve many other industries.

“We serve anywhere that there are specifications for rubber molding components,” Smith said.

More recently, Smith said Specification Rubber Products has begun breaching more consumer-based industries and started manufacturing items like chew toys and ice cube trays.

During the tours guests were guided through the company’s shipping department, which typically houses over 400 different individual products. In the receiving department, Smith said raw material is stored.

Smith said the original building contains the company’s plant, which utilizes machines that are not found anywhere else in the world. The original building also houses its world class laboratory.

“Every pound of rubber that comes into the facility goes through quality checks,” Smith said.

Smith said the lab is certified by NSF International and has made revolutionary changes to the waterworks and rubber industries.

“We were the first company in the world to develop a colored compound that was safe for drinking water,” Smith said.

According to Smith, that development led to the company’s signature product, the Barracuda gasket. Smith said the Barracuda’s bright orange color makes it easier for contractors and installers to accurately place inside of pipes.

According to Smith, Specification Rubber Products processes 3.5 million pounds of material per year.

Mayor Marty Handlon said the tours were educational, and she was glad to see the high quality of work being performed in the city.

“I’ve been here for 20 years and been by this building thousands of times, not knowing what they do,” Handlon said. “You have businesses all around that make the same product as the business down the street or in the next town, but to make such a superior product is something for us to be proud of.”

After the tours concluded, guests were shuttled to the Pelham Civic Complex for a luncheon. Famed sportscaster Eli Gold was the event’s emcee, and UAB head football coach served as the keynote speaker.

Clark commended loyalty and teamwork Specification Rubber Products employees and retirees.

“You can see that this is a family, where they’re proud of what they’re doing,” Clark said.

During the luncheon, Smith was presented with a small grandfather clock as a token of appreciation from the American Cast Iron Pipe Company.

When Specification Rubber Products opened, about 25 people worked there. Today, Smith said that number has almost quadrupled.

While it was not intended to grow as large as it is, Smith said Specification Rubber Products now serves 25 countries on five different continents.

While Specification Rubber Products is a “one of a kind” manufacturer, Smith said many of its successes are due to the people who work there.

“We’re fortunate to have a highly trained and educated workforce,” Smith said.

Former Specification Rubber Products President Phil Robertson said he remembered when the company reached its 25th anniversary and admired its growth.

“Reaching 50 years old is rare,” Robertson said. “Not many businesses have lasted as long.”

Smith attributed the company’s longevity to its flexibility, innovation and willingness to take opportunities.

“Our lot in life is to create solutions for our customers,” Smith said. “If we’re not adding value, we’re not doing what we set out to do.”