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Techmer PM Focused on Acquisitions and Investment

From fibers to additive manufacturing to small-lot masterbatches and engineered compounds, the Tennessee-based materials design specialist continues to remake itself.

Robert Grace

July 8, 2024

5 Min Read
Michael McHenry, Techmer PM
Techmer PM CEO Michael McHenry at NPE 2024.Image courtesy of Robert Grace

At a Glance

  • Acquisition of Advanced Color Technologies in 2023 has exceeded all expectations, per Techmer PM CEO.
  • Multimillion-dollar upgrade to Dalton, GA, plant includes Fiber Center of Excellence.
  • Company continues scouting for bolt-on acquisitions in North America and Europe.

Market uncertainties have led to a bumpy ride in the past couple of years for compounders such as Techmer PM LLC. Regardless, CEO Michael McHenry has his eyes set on an aggressive path forward that includes further investment and expansion.  

Also a major player in the fibers and textiles markets, the Clinton, TN–based materials design specialist took a major step in July 2023 when it acquired Advanced Color Technologies LLC. ACT, based in Dalton, GA, designs, formulates, and supplies specialty colorant and additive systems. The integration of the two firms is nearly complete, McHenry said in an interview at the recent NPE 2024 show. 

“ACT has been a great acquisition,” he stated. “We've exceeded all expectations so far. This is a testament to the integration team’s preparation and execution, when you’re putting two groups together that are so close in both proximity and market focus.” The firms not only were tough competitors but ACT’s Dalton headquarters is literally just a few miles down the road from one of Techmer’s primary fibers facility. Techmer has spent much of the past year merging those two neighboring facilities into one. 

Plant upgrade designed to foster collaboration with customers.

Now Techmer PM is making a multimillion-dollar investment to upgrade its Dalton plant. That includes creating a Fiber Center of Excellence there, along with an innovation center, that is targeted for opening this fall.

Related:Techmer PM Introduces PFAS-free Polymer Processing Aid

“We're setting up the plant to be able to do everything from testing to applications to production,” McHenry said. “We are creating  a place for customers to come and work with us directly on designing new fiber materials or different designs that they can use in varied  applications.” This will encompass flooring, upholstery, fabrics, and the increasingly important sector of artificial turf. 

About a third of ACT’s business in Dalton — widely known as the carpet capital of the world — was in products outside of fibers. McHenry said they will be moving those activities to some of Techmer’s six other North American plants. “We really want to make the Dalton site almost exclusively dedicated to servicing the fibers industry.”

The 43-year-old Techmer PM, which specializes in modifying and fine-tuning the properties of technical polymers, also is active on the extensive plastics side of its business. 

Focus on small lots in Batavia. 

Just weeks ago, the firm announced it was creating a Small Lot Center of Excellence at its 50-employee plant in Batavia, IL. Located in the greater Chicago area, this operation will be a dedicated center equipped with a diverse range of equipment, “including setups for unique, highly loaded additives and fillers designed to accommodate complex formulas with precision and efficiency.” It will be able to handle orders as small as 25 pounds. 

“The center currently supports masterbatches across many end-use markets,” said Kimberly Williamson, “and will be ready to ship engineered compounds by September 2024.”

Techmer-Williamson.jpg

Williamson, a 17-year Techmer PM veteran, is the company’s color innovation and technology manager. The small-lot part of the facility is operating four extruders now and will add a fifth (coming from the Clinton plant) soon. Nine employees — soon to be 10 — are totally dedicated to the small-lot business, she said in an interview at NPE. 

“The business opportunity is to reduce sample lead times for our customers,” she said, “as well as open up capacity for orders less than 500 pounds. Our aim is to provide the fastest turnaround time in the industry.”

Techmer PM last year also installed a new five-layer film development line in its Clinton headquarters applications lab. This makes Techmer PM one of, if not the only, such compounder operating a multilayer line at this level of capabilities, according to McHenry. “It was a strategic and fairly sizable investment for us,” he added.

Technical events for customers.

The company — which for more than two decades has hosted an annual, two-day event in Tennessee called Fibertech — also launched a technical conference for flexible packaging customers called the Techmer Film Festival. And it is also organizing a similar type of event, called INVOKE, for its rigid packaging clients. Its Innovation Panel at Fibertech this past March was a big hit with attendees. 

Additionally, Techmer PM remains very active in developing specialized materials for additive manufacturing, which includes partnering with organizations such as NASA, Oak Ridge National Laboratories, Thermwood Corp., and the University of Maine. It works closely with major brand owners in sectors such as healthcare and personal care, on color-related and other initiatives, and is building its business in Mexico, where it operates a plant in Queretaro. 

McHenry, meanwhile, continues to put his stamp on the firm. He left his posts as president and CEO of Master Fluid Solutions in September 2020 to join Techmer PM as its chief operating officer. The company then named him CEO the following May, as the firm’s founder and CEO John Manuck stepped back to become executive chairman. McHenry, who has a chemistry degree from Rutgers University, previously worked for both BASF and Ciba in executive leadership roles, where he first became acquainted with Techmer. 

On the prowl for acquisitions.

Now McHenry spends much of his time scouting acquisition opportunities. This has been aided by the purchase of a majority stake in the firm in September 2022 by San Francisco-based private equity firm Gryphon Investors. John Manuck, the company’s management team, and private investment firm SK Capital all remain investors.  

“We’re still interested in adding bolt-ons for the company,” notes McHenry. His focus remains on North America, but Europe also is very much in his sights. He said he hopes to complete at least two of those potential acquisitions this year.

About the Author(s)

Robert Grace

Robert Grace is a writer, editor, and marketing communications professional who has been active in B2B journalism since 1980. After editing trade publications in London for seven years, he returned to the US in 1989 to help start the weekly Plastics News. Bob was PN’s editor-in-chief for 25 years and also served as its associate publisher and conference director. In May 2014 he founded RC Grace LLC and has developed an active freelance business.

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