Düsseldorf, Germany — Tough times aren't stopping materials maker A. Schulman Inc. from moving ahead with several new projects.
The Fairlawn, Ohio-based firm has struggled with the fallout of its $800 million acquisition of Citadel Plastics. Schulman made that deal in the first half of 2015, but poor results and concerns about material made at some Citadel plants led to the ouster of CEO Bernard Rzepka in August. CFO Joseph Levanduski also left the firm on Nov. 1.
But those challenges seemed far away at K 2016, as Schulman focused on new products, expansions and innovations. In Europe, the firm soon will add production of sheet molding compound (SMC) composites. Schulman currently makes bulk molding compound (BMC) in Hamburg, Germany, which also could be the site of the new SMC work, according to executive Heinrich Lingnau.
“The key driver for the [SMC] move is that the market in Europe isn't being served,” said Lingnau, who serves as the firm's senior vice president and general manager for the Europe/Middle East Africa region. “Our global customers, especially in automotive, want us to be there. We're starting engineering work now and should be in production by the end of next year.”
Schulman also in March will open a manufacturing site making masterbatch concentrates in Turkey, where it currently has a sales office. The plant will sell material into packaging and other markets in Europe and the Middle East. When the plant opens, some production will be moved there from Schulman's other European plants, Lingnau said.
In Saudi Arabia, Schulman is on track to open a major polypropylene and engineering resin compounding plant in 2017 through a joint venture with Saudi resin maker National Petrochemical Industrial Co. (Natpet) The firm will operate four extrusion lines with total capacity of more than 200 million pounds, making compounds based on PP and other materials for automotive, appliance and electrical/electronic markets. The plant will sell material to customers in Europe and Asia.
For the African market, Schulman recently signed a supply agreement with French firm Snetor Chimie, which Lingnau said ranks as Africa's largest plastics distributor. Snetor in June will begin distributing Schulman masterbatch concentrates primarily for the African packaging market.
In the auto market, a skid plate made with a colored Polyfort-brand filled PP compound from Schulman recently won first place and grand prize in the Society of Plastics Engineers Central Europe's annual automotive awards. The skid plate was made by Magna International Inc.'s Magna Exteriors business for a 2014 Merceds GLA vehicle.
Magna officials said that the PP skid plate weighs much less than conventional skid plates in PVC or ABS. Key features of the application are metallic appearance direct from the mold and substitution of conventional paint processes.
Schulman ranks as one of the largest compounder and concentrate makers in both North America and Europe, as well as one of Europe's largest resin distributors. The firm posted sales of $2.4 billion in its 2015 fiscal year.