GRANVILLE, OHIO — Owens Corning is opening the gates of its Granville research facility to a wider audience.
The Toledo, Ohio-based fiberglass and building products giant has created a new subsidiary, Integrex, to exploit some previously internal resources.
The first operational division of Integrex is called Owens Corning Testing Systems. OCTS will perform thermal, physical, fire, acoustic and analytical tests for outside clients — even those that have been more competitors than customers.
At a media coming-out party June 24-25 in Granville, Owens officials touted the company's long history of analyzing materials.
The company has been testing and characterizing minerals, glass fibers, thermosets and thermoplastics for years as part of its internal research and development and customer support. The company owns about $10 million worth of testing equipment.
Because of a high degree of automation, ``most of the equipment has excess capacity,'' said OCTS director Julie Stahl. But equipment is only part of the equation.
Owens Corning officials stressed the experience of the firm's scientists and engineers. About 48 members of Owens Corning's science staff — with an average of 20 years' experience each — and another 20 support and administrative personnel are on board the new venture.
A projected $1 million to $2 million in annual sales and 50 people don't stack very high against Owens Corning's 22,000-strong work force and $5 billion in sales. But the impact of the new division may go beyond the numbers.
``This indicates a shift by Owens Corning to a more entrepreneurial approach,'' said Mike Gegenheimer, chief executive officer of Integrex. ``We are looking to the science side to expand what Owens Corning does commercially.''
Owens Corning is not the first major company to merchandise its science capability. Geon created Polymer Diagnostics Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary, in October to perform many of the same functions as OCTS.
But Integrex won't be just a lab company. Owens Corning also envisions turning a largely negative experience into positive cash flow.
The second operating division of Integrex will be a litigation management service, drawing on Owens Corning's experience with thousands of asbestos-related lawsuits.
Through near- constant tort litigation, the firm learned how to reduce its legal costs for each case by a factor of four, officials said.
The two divergent functions of Integrex will dovetail in some aspects. Testing can serve as a forensic tool after a lawsuit has been filed, as well as a means to reduce the risk of litigation in the first place.
``If you do a good job on the front end [testing], you don't have to do as much on the far end [litigation],'' Gegenheimer said.