DALLAS — General downsizing in the polyurethane industry could pay off big for at least two veterans of the field.
Robin L. Grieve and James M. O'Connor, who have more than 60 years of chemical industry experience between them, have formed SynUthane International Inc., a consulting and research firm aimed at the polyurethane industry. They talked about their new company at the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Polyurethane Expo '98, held Sept. 17-20 in Dallas.
Based in Newington, Conn., the new firm is aimed at companies faced with economic constraints and limited budgets, they said.
``Downsizing is happening,'' Grieve said in an interview with Rubber & Plastics News, an Akron, Ohio-based sister publication to Plastics News. ``It's a growing trend.'' While companies may cut back personnel, they still need people to handle such areas as research and development.
Ironically, downsizing at Grieve's and O'Connor's previous companies played a key role in the creation of SynUthane.
``One of the reasons I took early retirement [from Arco Chemical Corp.] is because of cutbacks,'' said O'Connor, 55, who had been Arco's research and development manager.
Grieve, a 60-year-old former business development management director at Arco, said he found himself in the same boat.
``It's better to leave on your terms,'' Grieve said. ``And it also was a good opportunity because we offer a cost-effective alternative to research and development operations that cost a fortune and don't have our experience.
``If a company builds a plant, it's a high-capital project,'' he said. ``We, on the other hand, are a controllable expense. That's why outsourcing works.''
``Every company is reducing force,'' O'Connor said. ``It's across the board. So, when new projects pop up, and companies don't want to add R&D, they have to outsource.''
Thus far, the company has been contacted by several firms and a number of others discussed possible projects with the two principals at the PU exposition, O'Connor said, although he did not identify them.
``We have two laboratories and an office,'' he said. ``Fortunately, because of downsizing, we've been able to pick up equipment at a reasonable cost. So, we can now look to larger projects.
``We will do a lot of the work ourselves because we're the only two full-time employees,'' he said.
But the two men have talked to several experienced people and have created an extensive network of PU industry veterans with expertise in all aspects of technology, O'Connor said. They can assist clients with materials application development, raw materials management and manufacturing strategies in all major market segments. SynUthane will concentrate on polyether and polyester polyols, propoxylation and ethoxylation, phosgenation technology, and aromatic and aliphatic isocyanates.
Grieve has worked in the PU industry for 35 years. His experience has been focused on toluene diisocyanate, polyols, polymeric methylene diphenylene diisocyanate, pure MDI and aliphatic isocyanates. He is past chairman of SPI's PU Division.
O'Connor has managed research and development operations in the PU and chemical industry for more than 29 years. His research background covers all segments of the business, including polyols, isocyanates, thermoplastic PUs, coatings and specialty chemicals.
``We can do part of a project or the whole project,'' Grieve said. ``Or we can recommend someone to handle a project on an interim basis to produce small quantities.''