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Techmer buys out joint venture partner

By: Frank Esposito

February 27, 2013

CLINTON, TENN. -- Change has been on the agenda at materials firm Techmer PM. Since mid-2012, the company has reorganized its senior management, bought out a joint venture partner and opened a new machine shop at its plant in Tennessee.

The management change occurred when Techmer founder John Manuck took on the titles of chairman and CEO. That allowed his stepson Ryan Howley to become president of the Clinton, Tenn.-based firm. Howley had been with Techmer since 1999, most recently serving as vice president of strategic growth.

In a recent phone interview, Howley said the move "is part of our eventual succession planning," and that he's looking forward to the challenge of having a larger role in the company where he first worked as a summer employee 23 years ago. "One of the things we need to do now is gain critical mass in engineering resins compounding," he said.

Techmer's recent buyout of the Techmer Lehvoss Compounds (TLC) LLC joint venture should help in that area. Techmer had operated the business as a joint venture with German compounder Lehmann & Voss & Co. KG since 2004, but Howley said the business "hadn't gone as well as either party would have liked, as far as sales were concerned."

"There were some successes, but we thought it could be more successful by taking a different path," he added. Techmer will continue to make TLC products such as Plaslube and Electrafil engineering resin compounds at its plant in Clinton, where TLC had occupied 40,000 square feet of the 190,000-square-foot building.

Howley declined to say how much Techmer paid for L&V's 40 percent stake in TLC. L&V already has opened an office in Pawcatuck, Conn., which it will use to market its Luvocom-brand engineering resin compounds, some of which previously had been made in Clinton. Techmer no longer will make Luvocom there, but Howley said L&V may market compounds that compete with the Plaslube and Electrafil materials.

Techmer now will operate the former TLC business — along with specialty materials made at its plant in Rancho Dominguez, Calif. — as Techmer Engineered Solutions LLC.

The new machine shop in Clinton is located in a separate building that covers between 10,000 and 15,000 square feet. The shop opened in mid-2012 and now has four full-time employees.

Previously, Techmer machinery that was in need of repair had to be sent out to other firms. Now, the firm will be able to refurbish and rebuild its own extruders, which Howley said will extend the life of the machinery.

Techmer also has improved its machinery know-how by hiring Dan Dickens, a longtime employee of extruder maker Coperion GmbH. "He's basically our manufacturing guru," Howley said of Dickens. "He can help us find ways to increase throughput."

Howley added that Techmer is looking to make acquisitions to grow the company. The firm was interested in Infinity Compounding LLC before that company was bought by Americhem Inc. Late last year. Not counting the TLC buyout, Techmer hasn't made an acquisition since it bought the Irgasurf line of additives from BASF SE in 2010.

Howley said Techmer was off to a good start in 2013, with January sales coming in 15 percent higher than expected. Techemr's sales for 2013 are expected to be above the $200 million mark. The firm makes a wide variety of compounds and color and additive concentrates at six U.S. sites. Techmer's Naperville, Ill., plant will relocate to Batavia, Ill., during the third quarter.

Techmer now employs 515 but still has a strong family element. In addition to Howley and Manuck, Howley's wife, Marina Howley, serves as the firm's global marketing director, and Manuck's brother, Rich Manuck, is Techmer's corporate training manager.

The family connection extends to Howley's sister, Heather Phillips, who is the firm's human resources director, and her husband, Chris Phillips, who leads Techmer's lean programs.

"We're not a small company anymore," Ryan Howley said. "But we're still a family company."