Forty years-a long time, a short time, as far as Edward M. Jeram is concerned.
Long in the sense he's spent four decades in the silicone rubber business, an anniversary touted by his employer, Rhodia Silicones, at the International Silicone Conference in Dearborn, Mich., April 4-5. Short in that to Jeram it was just yesterday that he came to General Electric Co. as a fresh-faced kid out of college.
It was June 6, 1966, that Purdue University graduate Jeram joined GE. He said it was a great place for someone with a master's in inorganic chemistry to enter industry.
``Engineering was the big influence at GE, throughout the whole environment,'' Jeram recalls. In the research department he found some of the people who were the inventors of basic polymer chemistry.
It was an extremely research-oriented company, he said. ``The saying at GE was, if you won the Nobel Prize, they'd ask you, `What did you do this year?' ''
At GE Silicones he was technological group leader and developed numerous flowable and pumpable silicone products for a wide variety of markets. He was a co-inventor of the first liquid silicone rubber, patented in 1975, and today holds 35 patents.
``I always have been interested in the unknown,'' he said. ``Things that you don't know anything about. If it already has been discovered, that's boring to me.''
Eventually the corporate culture at GE changed, he said.
``It became more commercial. It wasn't all about the research, inventing stuff, anymore,'' he said.
In January 1979 Jeram co-founded Visilox Systems, where he worked as director of research and vice president of marketing. The company developed a line of high-purity silicone electronic junction coatings and other electrical and aerospace specialty products.
In 2000, Jeram joined Rhodia as senior technical consultant. He is responsible for the research and development of silicone, and holds the title of senior silicone elastomer technologist.
One of the products he's developed at Rhodia is the Silbione LSR 4300 series, used in healthcare and consumer goods. Jeram provides technical assistance and quality assurance to a number of Rhodia silicone lines.
Jeram said Rhodia has more of that old-fashioned culture he craves. ``You can argue with them all you want. They may tell you, `No, we can't do that,' but they let you have your say. I can live with that,'' he said.
Jeram said he loves to travel and rub elbows with customers.
``Customers see it from all different perspectives,'' he said, and have questions and ideas that spark innovation. He particularly likes talking to people in the aerospace and medical fields: ``They push you and push you,'' he said.
``That's what turns my flippers.''