Techmer PM and MTI Thermoplastic Composites might occupy different neighborhoods of the compounding universe, but the challenges facing the two companies are somewhat similar.
``Consolidation and globalization are affecting all parts of the supply chain,'' Techmer President and Chief Executive Officer John Manuck said at Plastics News Executive Forum in Summerlin. ``We've all had to adjust.''
For Techmer, a maker of color and additive concentrates, those adjustments have included forming international supply partnerships to complement its five U.S. plants. In 2003 alone, Clinton, Tenn.-based Techmer struck supply deals with firms in Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and China.
But Manuck cautioned against what he called a ``typical strategy'' of dealing with change by slashing workforce and services, buying cheap raw materials, sourcing from China and eliminating research and development. That approach, he said, leads only to lower costs, stale technology and the ``slow liquidation'' of a business.
Instead, Manuck urged a focus on technology and design, one that's keyed on delivering the value of new raw materials and reducing variations in the finished product.
Techmer posted sales of about $130 million in 2003, with about 30 percent of that total coming from the fibers market.
At MTI, President Larry Montsinger is faced with educating customers about his firm's product - long-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic compounds based on polypropylene, nylon and other resins - while keeping pace with a fast-moving, global LFRT market. He said he expects that sector to grow from less than 80 million pounds in 2000 to 125 million pounds in 2004. Of that amount, he predicts that 55 million pounds - or more than 40 percent - will come from automotive and industrial uses in North America.
Most fibers used in MTI's products are glass, but the firm also can use carbon, aramid and stainless-steel fibers. New technology is allowing Matthews, N.C.-based MTI, which Montsinger founded in 1989, to increase its line outputs as high as 2,000 pounds an hour. In the long-term, outputs of even 10,000 pounds an hour are possible, Montsinger said.
Moving ahead, Montsinger said the market needs cooperation among original equipment manufacturers, Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers and equipment suppliers.