Mixing adhesives in his mother’s basement was something Harry Arnon probably never imagined doing growing up. He likely never thought he’d co-own a U.S. company with his brother, Josef, either — and especially a world-renowned one that manufactures high-performance adhesives, sealants, and precision dispensing equipment.
However, the two brothers are at the helm of Hernon Manufacturing, which distributes to dozens of countries including major industries such as energy, defense, aerospace, automotive, medical, and many others.
“Hernon Manufacturing represents the great American story,” shares Drew Richards, marketing manager with the company. “It was founded by immigrants looking for a better life in this country…and finding it.”
Harry and Josef Arnon are Iranian-born Jews. But before dreaming of America, both brothers served in the Israeli military. When the time came, Harry Arnon enrolled in the Israeli Air Force and Josef joined the Army.
According to Richards, Arnon spent quite a bit of time in the Air Forces working on and repairing fighter jets. In 1974, however, he arranged for a big move away and landed in New York City. He only had a few dollars to his name then, but managed to find work in general contracting. Josef followed him to America a few months later and, eventually, worked as a graduate student in the Applied Science Department at New York University, where he holds a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering and a master’s in polymer chemistry.
“Josef ended up working on a university project with his professor at NYU, developing an adhesive that proved quite effective. It actually gained the recognition and a contract from the government to continue production,” says Richards. “This set off a light bulb of sorts for Josef and Harry about possibilities and where it could lead for them.”
In fact, the brothers immediately started planning and executing a business plan, even though it was from the family’s home basement at first. At the time, it was the only space where they could experiment and manufacture adhesives. In 1978, and within four years of arriving in America, the Arnon’s officially established their own company.
“The founders continue to work at Hernon today, so it’s quite an accomplishment,” says Richards. “Of course, it took a lot of work at first, chasing down their own government contracts and local businesses. I mean, they delivered materials from the trunk of their car, building the business from the ground up, until they could afford a storefront and proper manufacturing facilities.”
The Arnon’s efforts proved successful and the founders eventually expanded the company a couple of times in New York before moving and setting up shop near Orlando, Florida in 1995.
“Hernon’s been in the same location ever since, but we’ve doubled the size of the building,” he says. “Florida is a very business-friendly state with lower taxes and an international port, so it makes sense to be headquartered here.”
Hernon currently exports to 60 countries, offering more than 5,000 unique formulas of adhesives and sealants.
“It’s truly impressive,” says Richards. “We have a massive database of specific formulas that we use for different customers and specific applications. So…depending on the substrate being used and whether you’re bonding metal, plastic, composites, or a combination of materials, and depending on the environment or potential moisture or chemical exposure, we’ve got all of the data sets covered for the ideal formula.”
This is extremely important in critical industries, such as medical or defense. There are 100% oxygenated environments, such as with medical ventilators, where only extremely advanced and unique sealants could endure. Hernon has this covered. Additionally, there are military or special forces requirements for specialty sealants that protect cartridges or critical components against water and other contaminants. Hernon is the go-to company for such products.
“It’s neat to see that we’re a world leader in anything, simply given our humble roots. But in terms of our capabilities I can honestly say that Hernon is a technology leader in sealants for military and defense purposes.”
What also makes Hernon unique is what Arnon calls “a total solution.” This means that the company provides the full package, including the chemistry, automated application equipment, and the UV curing technology.
“We’ve implemented a form of horizontal integration,” explains Richards. “For example, Hernon’s engineering section also develops dispensing machines and UV curing lights. About half of our products are adhesives in terms of sales and the other half are fully engineered components, such as dispensing machines or lights. And those are built right here in our facility.”
Richards encourages companies to speak with Hernon early in the design stage of a project or application. “We offer so many different solutions that if you include us in the conversation from the beginning of a design, it typically changes everything that’s possible,” he says.
“As just one example, we have adhesives that can be cured using UV light. This means if a substrate is clear, such as a glass or some plastics, you can apply the adhesive and it won’t be hardened. You can also build multiple components onto it, then shine a light through the glass, and bond everything in one stage. This is a unique capability that would never be possible with mechanical fasteners,” says Richards.
It’s also a capability that design engineers may be unaware of without first discussing possibilities with a manufacturer, such as Hernon, directly.
“However, I feel the founders have done an incredible job communicating Hernon’s capabilities and maintaining a global presence, given our relatively small workforce,” credits Richards. “Harry and Josef recognized early on that they were not the experts in how to market to each industry or in each country around the globe. Often, they didn’t know the culture or the language.”
So, the brothers recruited localized distributors in different sectors and countries, counting on locals who best knew the industry and the region. And it’s paid off.
“Hernon has built up excellent relationships with its distributors and has managed to become an important global player in adhesives, sealants, and more,” says Richards. “It’s an American success story.”