The global pandemic and subsequent recession may have some chemical suppliers rethinking expansion plans, but not MFG Chemical
The Dalton, GA-based company makes an array of specialty chemicals for the household and personal products industry, as well as many other sectors including agriculture, paints and coating, oilfield and water treatment.
Nearly a year ago, MFG launched Project Odyssey, a major upgrading of its three Dalton, Georgia, area plants, which were all recently recertified ISO 9001:2015. Project Odyssey improvements include new cooling towers, new process control technology, upgraded reactor piping for improved pressure relief and new safety instrumented systems.
“Project Odyssey will have similarr impacts on all the sectors that we are involved,” explained MFG President and CEO Paul Turgeon.“At the end of the day, we will be able to produce higher quality products by having digital control over the entire process.”
Specifically, Project Odyssey includes:
New cooling towers for better quality control of the reaction using a closed system at known temperature with lower cycle time and lower water waste;
New DCS process control technology for better control on reaction parameters and cycle times reduced human error by having remotely activated valves and reduced risk by automating the shutdown process;
New pressure release control valves, safety instrumented systems and upgraded piping to minimize and localize possible run-away reaction.
Project Odyssey remains in place even as the company welcomed a new CEO. In February MFG named Turgeon president and chief executive officer. Turgeon is a specialty chemical industry veteran; his previous experiences include positions with Ciba, FMC, BetzDearborn, Great Lakes Chemical, Nalco and Chemtura Corporation.
At Chemtura he and his partners executed the purchase of the business he was leading in 2006, creating BWA Water Additives. Turgeon has continued to work with private equity, serving on the boards of US Water, CCR, Versa flex, Anue Water Technologies and MFG, too, which provided him with considerable insight with before taking the helm.
“MFG is a well-run operation that is diversified and entrepreneurial; those characteristics attracted me to the company,” he explained.
One of the characteristics that attracted Turgeon is the company’s commitment to the environment.
Most recently, in April, MFG partnered with EcoVadis to measure and continuously improve its sustainability profile. EcoVadis is a provider of business sustainability ratings, intelligence and collaborative performance improvement tools for consumer goods companies and chemical suppliers.
EcoVadis’ program provides reliable Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) scores across 21 CSR indicators within four categories, including Environment, Labor and Human Rights, Ethics and Sustainable Procurement. Its program of “Combining People, Process and Platform” helps participating companies in reducing environmental, social and ethical risks all along the supply chain.
“MFG Chemical, which has already made plant safety and customer confidentiality part of its DNA, will now add sustainability to its core values. We believe this will benefit our customers and communities all along the supply chain,” said Turgeon.
Turgeon took over just as coronavirus was impacting the global economy, but he maintains that MFG is diversified enough to handle a downturn.
“From a supply standpoint, COVID-19 hasn’t impacted our supply chain either; our team did a great job developing a well-thought outsourcing plan,” he explained.
In fact, all MFG manufacturing and warehouse facilities are fully operational without any interruptions in product or service availability related to COVID-19.
Moreover, at press time the company had not reported a single coronavirus case among its employees.
Turgeon doesn’t expect MFG to avoid the specialty chemical downturn that some experts have said could be anywhere from 20 to 30%.
But he noted that the company had record Q1 results and he is optimistic that MFG will return to those levels within 24 months.
He credits that resiliency with market diversification; water treatment and packaging materials remain strong, while oil and gas operations have been suffering.
“Changes in oil and gas will take time; we had an oversupply before COVID-19 and it will take time to clear that oversupply.”
In contrast, industry executives note that the household and personal products industry is relatively recession-resistant and MFG provides an array of chemicals for the home care and personal care industries.
Despite the hardships caused by the coronavirus, Turgeon remains optimistic due to chemical industry macro trends.
“There is a demand for regionally-sourced goods and MFG is lean, entrepreneurial and agile,” he told Happi.“We can move on to different opportunities at a fast speed and can pivot quickly. We have smart people here and there will be new opportunities on the other side of this.”