GE Advanced Materials used the recent Chinaplas show - where it staffed the largest exhibit of any materials supplier - to promote a portfolio of materials and a palette of colors targeting the booming China market. It also announced a changing of the guard in its senior plastics management in Asia and revealed its involvement in a project that will build a pair of energy-efficient buildings in Shanghai this year.
At a June 30 news conference in Shanghai that was closed to all but the Chinese media, senior company officials - including John Krenicki, president and chief executive officer of GE Advanced Materials - stressed their commitment to China while offering few previously unreleased details about production plans in the region.
They chose instead to focus on their technology and products, and introduced Alan Leung as the new president of GE Advanced Materials, Plastics for Greater China, replacing Mark Wall, who held that post since 2001 and now is taking up the firm's top plastics job in Japan. Both Wall and Leung report to Len Kosar, vice president and general manager of GEAM, Plastics Pacific.
The Canada-educated Leung, formerly plastics marketing director in Asia for GEAM, started his career selling for Borg-Warner Chemicals in Hong Kong in 1983. He now is charged with overseeing the development of plastics business and market expansion in Greater China, which includes the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan. With 2003 sales in China of $640 million, plastics already is GE's largest business in the country, and few expect the pace to slow much any time soon.
Krenicki, calling China the world's fastest-growing market for plastics, cited the cellular phone sector as a case in point. In 1996, he noted, China had just 7.3 million cell phone subscribers. Last year, that number was 260 million. And over that same time, adjusted annual growth in the country's gross domestic product grew 7 percent, from just under $1 trillion to about $1.25 trillion.
In December, GE announced it was making a multimillion-dollar investment to add eight new production lines at its resin compounding and film extrusion facility in Nansha, in southern China. Now, based on strong growth projections, the company said it ``plans to invest additional resources in the Nansha plant beyond the levels announced in December.''
That plant is one of three plastics manufacturing facilities GE operates in the country. In 2000 it began operating a compounding plant in the Pudong region of Shanghai, and in 2002 GE acquired Zhongshan Plastech Sunsheet Co. Ltd., a maker of polycarbonate sheet in Zhongshan. GEAM's Asian headquarters is in Shanghai.
Additionally, the company last year opened a $64 million technology center in Shanghai. The 506,000-square-foot facility employs 500 and is equipped with 27 research laboratories as well as a center to help customers develop new products.
``The [center] serves the entire Asia-Pacific region,'' Leung said, and can provide help with custom colors, special effects, demonstrations, prototyping, and product scale-up to include molding of part samples.
GE at Chinaplas introduced a line of its Visualfx special-effects resins, dubbed the China Palette, that it said it developed specifically for the Chinese market.
``We believe this is the first industry focus on consumer color trend preferences in China,'' Jonah Hong, industry manager for aesthetics for GE Advanced Materials, said in a news release. The roll-out included eight new families of special effects.
``While we designed these products for use inside Greater China, they are equally appropriate for global customers importing products into the country,'' said Robert B. Johnson, GE's global technical manager for C&E Portables & Displays.
GE recommends four grades of its resins for use with the molded-in-color China Palette products - two Lexan polycarbonates and a pair of Cycoloy PC/ABS blends.
The energy-efficient building project is part of an agreement with the Shanghai Research Institute of Building Sciences. The plan includes a 19,375-square-foot office structure due to be completed in August, and a 6,500-square-foot residential apartment project that will begin in September.
GE will supply specialty materials, such as Lexan Solar Control IR polycarbonate sheet, a heat-management glazing designed to reduce solar transmission while allowing high levels of light transmission.
Meanwhile at Chinaplas, GE Advanced Materials promoted a range of its materials, with emphasis on building and construction, telecommunications, automotive and other transportation applications. The latter included its Ultem-brand polyetherimide sheet products, which are finding use in airline and railroad interior uses due in part to their flame, smoke and toxicity compliance characteristics.
GE said Texstars Inc. of Grand Prairie, Texas, is using Ultem 1668A sheet to thermoform the cockpit of the Boeing C17 jetliner. France's Adder Aircraft Interiors in Le Plessis-Trevise is using the same material for its new, movable aircraft cabin divider in a Scandinavian Airbus A320 jet. And Munich, Germany's Siemens AG is using a 3mm-thick sheet of Ultem R16SG29 to form the entire interior of train cars on a new line of its passenger trains, including Houston's new Metro light-rail system.
On the personnel side, in Japan, Mark Wall is replacing Junichi Obata, who has been named vice president of corporate planning for GE Asia. Wall, who joined Borg-Warner Chemicals in 1984, also served as president of GE Plastics South America from 1999-2001.