On cold, clear days here, you can look up and see fragile contrails against the sky and tiny jetliners racing past.
Such was the scene in January 1999, when Rick Organ, then the new president and CEO of Schneller Inc., a plastics company in Kent, spoke to employees at his first annual meeting.
"It's the fool who fails to account for storms in good weath-
er," Organ, a trim, athletic-looking man with dark hair and sharp features, told his new associates,
Years later, he remembered the surprised looks Schneller's chemists, machine operators, designers and secretaries cast at one another. "What's this new guy saying?" they wondered.
Schneller was strong. It had bought a competitor in Florida. The mostly domestic airlines it had supplied with materials for 34 years were flying high. The future seemed as bright as the woodsy winter scene outdoors.
Organ may be an optimist, but from having served on the company board while still in his previous job with Valvoline, he knew the enterprise he was hired to steer into the 21st century could face trouble ahead.
In fact, with essentially one industry buying its products, mostly on one continent, he figured it was only a matter of time.
"The company was unbalanced," he said in a recent conversation in his office, which looks out through a sweeping bay window. "It was like a stool with one leg."
His strategy is to add stability. It seems to be working.
The company's only market sat in airline passenger compartments among curvy panels, soft colors and organic shapes. A range of materials and patterns covers every surface: bulkheads, seats and floors, all with a purpose: skid-proof entryway and lavatories, carpeted aisles, ceilings of layered panels that shield cabin lights.
It's all plastic. Almost everything in sight has a polymer base. Polymers are large-molecule synthetic materials that workers can shape, mold, emboss, tint, laminate or embed with rigid fibers (or even with organic material, including leaves, bamboo shoots or moss). Polymer products can be hard, soft, puffy, flat, slick, wavy, rough.
Chemical companies make the materials from petroleum. Other companies, like Schneller, turn train cars full of petroleum-based goo into decorative panels and films. Still others mold and press them into shapes for virtually every aspect of people's lives.
Charles Rogers, a polymer science professor emeritus at Case Western Reserve University, said such materials - robust, lightweight and flame-resistant - are ideal for aircraft.
From its founding in 1964, Schneller had sold panels for airline passenger seats, tray tables and bulkheads and films to decorate and protect surfaces throughout interiors. It made for good business, "a sexy business," Organ called it, and solid growth, mostly from the North American flight industry.
But when Organ arrived as chief, a financial guy with a focus on international trade, he saw storms on the horizon. His message to employees was a warning that a change would come.
Several, actually. Organ, 48 and a father of two who lives in Hudson, first pushed the company to cultivate new customers abroad. Domestic airlines and aircraft manufacturers represented two-thirds of Schneller's business in '99, foreign carriers one-third.
"Now that's reversed," he said. One of its biggest customers, in fact, is Airbus, the multinational European competitor to America's jet-making giant, Boeing.
In 1999, Schneller was strong. It had bought a competitor in Florida and it had supplied the domestic airlines with materials for 34 years.
Interturbine Logistik GmbH is the official Quick Ship partner of Schneller for customized quantities used for urgent needs.
The new LEXAN XHR A13 film adds robustness in multilayer laminate constructions used in decorative interior applications.
SABIC Innovative Plastics’ High-Performance Lexan XHR Sheet for Aircraft Interiors Now Available with Decorative Surfaces from Boltaron
Because the sheet products are constructed using SABIC Innovative Plastics’ high-performance material, they are ideal for aircraft interior components that must comply with flame, smoke and toxicity...