More of the same, but better, could sum up the Lanxess approach to the polyurethanes business that came as part of the Chemtura acquisition.
Better in this context means building on the expertise of the people who are now employed
by Lanxess rather than Chemtura, breaking down regional silos, and helping the team to communicate better with each other and the customers.
The business is being run by Markus Eckert, who heads up the Urethane Systems unit at Lanxess.
He has many years' experience with Lanxess and, before that, Bayer. As a graduate in chemistry and economics working for Bayer, Eckert found himself co-opted into the global team that helped pull Lanxess out of the German chemical giant in 2005.
"I learned a lot, as that's not the natural environment for a graduate chemist," he said.
After the spin-off, he found himself heading Lanxess' corporate development function for four years. Following that, he gained hands-on business management experience running the leather products business.
Under the previous owner, Chemtura had bundled gasoline additives and polyurethane chemicals together in the same division. Eckert said this led to greater management focus on larger gasoline additives business, to the detriment of polyurethanes.
While customers knew that individuals at Chemtura were committed to the polyurethanes business, there always was some doubt about the long-term commitment to what was a small, albeit high added value, segment of Chemtura's portfolio.
Eckert said that Lanxess has shown its commitment to the business segment with the purchase, and this is giving customers greater faith.
In polyurethanes, Lanxess obtained former Chemtura production assets in six locations: Baxenden, near Manchester, England; Latina and Rome, Italy; Nantong, China; Rio Claro, Brazil; and two U.S. sites—in Perth Amboy, N.J., and Gastonia, N.C. The company also has technical centers in Naugatuck, Conn.; Latina, Italy; and Nanjing, China.
Eckert is pleased with the spread of assets and technical centers, and added that these locations will stay.
"You need critical mass for research and development," he said.
There are a number of opportunities to grow the business through innovation, by a greater regional focus, and by communications between the different regions, Eckert believes.