John Bambara surprised himself with the popularity of foamed polypropylene.
``I didn't know how the whole world would respond,'' said Bambara, president and chief executive officer of Sentinel Products Corp., a Hyannis, Mass., company that offers foam technology and manufacturing systems. ``All the styrene people know they have to get into propylene.''
Sentinel still handles expanded high density polyethylene, annular foam dies and compounding. But changing his company's strategy has been a good choice for a man who has spent his life peddling plastic or the machinery that goes with it.
Earlier this year, he equipped Sentinel's Hyannis plant with one complete extrusion foam sheet line and he is installing a second line that will be fully functional in five months. He is negotiating with four potential licensees right now in the food packaging market.
``I don't really want to compete with anybody,'' he said. ``I'm not going to do the food products. Once I get a few licensees, I'm going to stop.''
Meantime, Sentinel is in negotiations to acquire another facility near Albany, N.Y. That expansion is in its nascent phase, so Bambara was reluctant to disclose details. The company expects to be in New York in about one year. That facility will help support Sentinel's growing automotive market.
Bambara is careful with his strategy. At age 71, he does not want to make mistakes. He has 25 employees, but he does not want to add too many.
``At one time, I had 1,500 employees, [nearly] 12 plants, and joint ventures overseas,'' he said in a June 25 interview at Sentinel's booth (S1204). ``The company was running me. I said, `This is it.' ''
He was good at polyethylene, he says, but the company made the mistake of selling to too many people.
``I decided to get into more sophisticated foams,'' Bambara said. ``I was in so many different businesses in my lifetime. I finally found what I was good at. It really came together with polypropylene.''