Pilot Chemical Co. doesn't believe in changing something that works.
That's why it has kept a highly successful business model in place for decades. The model has allowed it to survive as an independent company and celebrate its 50th anniversary this year while others in the industry were restructuring, consolidating or failing.
Part of its business plan calls for regular growth through innovation, according to Neil Burns, vice president of marketing.
And Pilot Chemical has plenty of that planned for 2002. Most of its expansion will involve technology and new products.
For instance, the Santa Fe Springs-based firm has a patent pending on lubricant additive technology that, once approved, will not only expand that end of its operation but likely will enlarge its emulsion polymer base.
Combined, elastomer polymers and lubricant additives make up about half of Pilot Chemical's sales, Burns said. The company has developed technology in all ends of the business to ensure regular growth, he added.
In its emulsion and polymers segment, the firm is concentrating on broadening its research of diphenyl oxide disulfonate, a raw material used in the production of styrene butadiene rubber latex and acrylic latex.
The supplier is the largest producer of the raw material globally, Burns said, and is looking for variations on the chemical to develop the next generation for latex.
Pilot Chemical also just completed an expansion at its Middletown, Ohio, factory, tripling capacity of both alcohol and ether sulfate with the purchase of a new reactor. The sulfates are used in the production of latex.
The company operates plants in Santa Fe Springs; Avenel, N.J.; Houston; and Middletown and Lockland, Ohio, that produce surfactants and specialty chemicals for emulsion polymerization, oilfield, personal care, textile and lubricant applications.
Pilot Chemical primarily serves customers in North America but exports about 10 percent of its goods globally.
All five production facilities are ISO-certified and offer room for expansion, a company spokeswoman said.
``When you look at us as compared to other surfactant firms, we remained steady under the same management and retained a consistent presence, while others are merging or being bought up,'' Burns said. ``We've benefited from (a consistent business model)...and not many companies have done that.''
Pilot Chemical was formed in 1952 by John Morrisroe, who invented and patented ice-cold sulfonation process technology, and two partners: Maury Katzman and Ben Russell.
Morrisroe's technology played a big part in helping the company grow and is used in the production of emulsion polymer and detergent surfactants and lubricant additives to make consistent quality products, the company said.
Operating out of its first plant in Santa Fe Springs, the firm used the sulfonation process to grow and expand.
Morrisroe became the sole owner of Pilot Chemical in the late 1950s and expanded it to the east where its market was growing. He built his second factory in Lockland, near Cincinnati, and a third in Avenel in 1968.
In 1973 he bought a factory in Houston, where he began making alkyl benzene and in 1985 began operating the site in Middletown.
John Morrisroe's son Paul, Pilot Chemical's current chairman and president, cited technology, efficiency and ``the hard work of our people'' as the prime reasons for the firm's success and longevity.
He said no one has been able to replicate Pilot Chemical's proprietary technology, and the company concentrates on a few areas ``and we do them well,'' he said.