On September 17, Lanxess inaugurated a brand-new compounding plant in Gastonia, North Carolina. Company officials spoke to the Americas Head of the Business Unit High-Performance Materials (HPM), Jens-Hendrik Fischer.
The compounding plant in Gastonia was officially inaugurated on September 17. Could you tell us something about the reasons for investing in North America?
Fischer: North America is a big market for us. The automotive market is the second largest in the world. More than 1.7 million people are employed in the automotive industry. And there is a continuous increase of number of cars and light trucks produced in the United States. In 2013 it is expected that the production will top the 14 million units mark. The vehicle density is very high but the price of gasoline is also climbing. This is why consumers in North America are becoming more sensitive concerning efficiency and think about the cost of fuel. American car manufacturers are looking for ways to make the cars lighter in order to save fuel.
This is where we step in with our high-tech solutions for “Green Mobility” with lightweight plastics. With the new compounding plant for Durethan [polyamide 6 and polyamide 66] and Pocan [polybutylene terephthalate (PBT)] we are in the right place at the right time to capture the market momentum.
Lanxess: “Compounding for Dummies”. Could you explain what happens in the new plant?
Fischer: The business unit High Performance Materials drives its growth through global expansion and operates a network of state-of-the art compounding sites—Gastonia now is the latest edition. In our compounding facilities we convert raw materials into high-tech plastics that are then further manufactured into customer-specific products mainly by the automotive industry. Compounding is therefore the science of mixing resins, fillers, reinforcements, and other additives to make a functionally optimized material. Up to 200 different raw materials are necessary to make our Durethan and Pocan compounds.
Hereby, HPM Americas will take advantage of the proprietary knowhow that has been developed over the last years in our research centres in Dormagen and Hong Kong as well as in our global production network.
Lanxess: Why did you choose to build in Gastonia?
Fischer: The new Lanxess site in Gastonia is on the fringe of the so-called “auto belt” in the southeast of the United States. Numerous car manufacturers—including a number of German companies—and auto supply companies have settled in the U.S. states of North and South Carolina, with around a quarter of the North American auto suppliers—including many Lanxess customers—operating manufacturing facilities in North Carolina. This makes Gastonia a perfect spot from a logistical point of view. And since the region is dedicated to the automotive industry there are many skilled workers and people that specialize in the professions we are looking for.