Baltimore — The U.S. polyurethane market is beginning to consolidate, said Chris Chrisafides, commercial vice president for Dow Chemical Co.'s polyurethanes business, in an interview at the recent American Chemistry Council's ACC Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI) meeting in Baltimore.
“There is considerable consolidation in the industrial space, consumer comfort and energy efficiency, it is happening everywhere, he said.
Chrisafides said companies with large portfolios of relatively small products are probably “buying a large number of products from large suppliers and are not getting economies of scale.”
He suggested that companies should help suppliers understand “the benefits of each of these products in each these applications. Let's drive research and development to produce one product with all the benefits. We will invest the [capital expenditures] to support that,” he added.
Historically, the North American polyurethane industry “has not been able to have those conversations before. The revolution is coming to the point where fragmentation is being reduced, these are the conversations we're starting to have.”
Collapsing the supply chain has helped Dow to produce its range of Vorazzz (pronounced Vora-Zee) materials, Chrisafides said. These are similar to the materials developed by Arsenal Capital Partners' Elite Comfort Solutions.
Both have an open cell structure, both incorporate phase change gels that help to moderate heat generation in viscoelastic foam mattresses.
“You can take a foam and add the gel and transfer some the heat into the gel, but the real problem is how to make the foam more comfortable. Typically you make the foam more dense. The challenge is how to get the feel, but ensure the pores are big enough for air to circulate through the foam,” he explained.
“This is disruptive, to get it to feel like this you have to get the foam denser, we have also taken the struts (between the foam cells) and made them stiffer, this was the engineering behind the Vorazzz. So you can have that comfort feel, but still have good airflow, and wicking properties.
It was necessary to collapse the value chain to enable Dow to understand what is downstream customers wanted.
“We listened to the market, in different parts of the value chain. Some people said ‘there is no need for that,' and further downstream they said ‘yes there is a need.' To be able to add value, we needed to know,” Chrisafides said.