Longtime plastic materials pro Keith Rodden has opened his own consulting firm: Compound Solutions LLC.
Rodden's aim with the new Lebanon, Tenn.-based firm is to help clients in the areas of material and supplier selection, plastics compounding and acquisition and sales guidance.
"With the consolidation that has occurred in our industry over the past several years, I feel there's a real need for product solutions that are priced fairly and designed to meet the specific application's needs," he said.
Rodden added that while phrases like "focus on serving the customer" have become a cliche, "it's a commitment missing in many businesses today."
Rodden has more than 40 years of industry experience, including time spent with M.A. Hanna Co. (now PolyOne), Matrixx Group and most recently with Celanese Corp.
"My perspective is undoubtedly influenced by my experience having worked almost my entire career in independent compounders," Rodden said in an email. "I believe independent compounders, like independent insurance agents, bring considerable value to their customers."
"Companies owned by others [both publicly traded and those owned by private equity] have significant constraints and, as a result, limitations," he added. "These limitations cause both service and product availability issues for the customer base."
Rodden also said that, with the consolidation that has occurred over the past several years, "there are only a few truly independent compounders left."
"Publicly traded compounding operations and those owned by private equity face working capital management issues that result in insufficient inventory and/or long lead times," he explained. "Lead times for non-independent compounders are frequently much longer than the lead times their customers are able to provide."
According to Rodden, frequently a custom molder or extruder gets orders from a customer that are due in a few weeks but the material supplier has lead times measured in months. The result, he said, is the custom processor frequently has to order product "that they're not sure they need but they have to order it anyway."
Product availability is another major factor for independent compounders, Rodden added.
"Independent compounders pride themselves on creating 'just the right product' for each customer," he said. "Big companies tend to manage the business like a chemical company…consolidating product lines and creating large internal barriers regarding the development of new products.
"Instead of creating 'just the right product' the focus is to try to force an existing product to work rather than create a new one. These two issues were what created the independent compounding industry in the first place," he said.