PolyOne Corp. has lured compounding veteran Richard Burns out of retirement to run its engineered materials unit.
``Engineered materials is a smaller business at PolyOne, but it carries a larger focus as far as what they want to do with the business,'' said Burns, who retired in 2002 after a 25-year career with LNP Engineering Plastics, an engineering resins compounder based in Exton, Pa.
Burns, who today begins his assignment as the unit's vice president and general manager, said he was working on his golf game and doing some traveling when he was contacted by PolyOne earlier this year. At the time, he was not looking for a job and wasn't interested in relocating from the Philadelphia area to the Cleveland area for Avon Lake, Ohio-based PolyOne. But he made the trip anyway and was impressed with what he saw.
``I really enjoyed the people when I made my visit,'' Burns said in a recent telephone interview. ``I met with Tom Waltermire and Lance Mitchell, and the culture that I saw was very people-friendly.''
Waltermire is PolyOne's president and chief executive officer, while Mitchell is the firm's vice president of plastic compounds and color.
``I also realized I missed the business interactions during the time I was away from the industry,'' Burns added. ``It was like brain candy, like I was using a part of my brain I hadn't used in a while.''
But at the same time, the 52-year-old Burns said he had to take into account PolyOne's recent financial struggles when making his decision. The firm, which ranks as North America's largest compounder, lost more than $175 million in the 2001-03 period. PolyOne has fared better in 2004, with first-half sales growth of 10 percent and a $25.5 million profit.
``I felt a lot more comfortable about where PolyOne is now compared to a year or a year and a half ago,'' Burns said. ``They've improved their cash flow and debt reduction.''
Mitchell said Burns ``brings a variety of leadership ... experiences, and is highly regarded in the polymer industry.''
Burns added that he's looking forward to combining his background in compounds based on nylon and polycarbonate at LNP - which was acquired by GE Plastics in 2002 - with PolyOne's efforts in polyolefins and polystyrene, which are included in the engineered materials unit.
At PolyOne, engineered materials covers a wide range of compounds, not including the firm's flagship PVC compounds and its line of color and additive compounds. In North America, engineered materials racked up sales of about $110 million for PolyOne last year, equaling 7 percent of sales in its performance plastics unit.
By comparison, PVC compounds generated 32 percent of that total, while color and additive compounds clocked in at 9 percent.
The engineered materials unit's major North American production site is in Dyersburg, Tenn., while it also makes products at two Ohio plants - in Broadview Heights and Macedonia. Globally, the unit operates plants in China, Singapore, Spain, Germany and Turkey.
Burns replaces James Gray, who has been named PolyOne's director of new technology platforms. Gray will be responsible for commercializing technologies such as those used to make nanocomposite-based materials.