A. Schulman Inc. was back at NPE for the first time in 18 years, and brought along a host of material solutions for plastics processors.
“We're a different company now than we were even four years ago,” Schulman Chairman, President and CEO Joseph Gingo said in an interview at NPE2012 in Orlando. “We're not doing as much commodity business and are focused on specialty masterbatches and similar products.”
He added that NPE “is a great way for us to connect with our customers.” Fairlawn, Ohio-based Schulman ranks as one of North America's 10 largest makers of compounds and concentrates.
Schulman's fortunes are improving in North America. In its 2011 fiscal year, which ended Aug. 31, Schulman's sales in the Americas grew almost 23 percent. Its operating income in the region grew 17 percent, as well. The Americas' market share of Schulman's overall sales grew in 2011 for the first time in several years.
“The strategy we've had is not to shrink Europe at all, but our goal is to grow the Americas and Asia,” Gingo said.
He also described Schulman's recent $63 million purchase of Elian SAS — a color concentrate maker in Oyonnax, France, as “a logical base” from which to grow business in the region.
“We had black, white and additive [concentrates] there, but not specialty color,” Gingo said. “This acquisition gives us entry to more than 1,000 customers.”
Schulman will continue to seek out further acquisitions of specialty firms such as Elian, he added.
On the product side, Schulman is displaying a number of applications using its compounds and concentrates. These include an RV hitch cover made of polypropylene-based Polytrope STR cap resins, but with the high-gloss appearance of painted metal. The prototype on display can be used on a camper trailer and can replace metal or other plastics. It's also available in medium-gloss and ultralow-gloss grades.
An automotive fuel tank using Schulamid-brand impact-modified compounds based on nylon 6/12 also is on display. The tank will be commercial next year on BMW 3 model vehicles. The material offers 40 percent higher heat resistance than competing materials and can accommodate smaller engine sizes.
Schulman also is emphasizing its Surface Solutions materials line, which it says “imparts visual impact, powerful shelf presence and global brand consistency” in rigid applications. In flexible packaging, Surface Solutions “provide design flexibility to control aesthetics, impart texture and tailor functionality of critical film surfaces.”
Examples of Surface Solutions on display at NPE included Papermatch-brand synthetic paper concentrates, polylactic acid opacifiers and DUL-brand matte compounds for PP, polyethylene, PET and nylon.