The approximately 40 subsidiary businesses of Chemetall GmbH emerged from the combination of expertise in chemistry and metallurgy, which is mirrored in the company’s name. Headquartered in Frankfurt, Germany, the specialty chemicals group is the global leader in products and processes for the chemical treatment of metal surfaces and plastics. Its surface treatment solutions benefit a variety of markets, such as aerospace, automotive, coil, cold forming, aluminum finishing, oil and gas, and several niche industries.
Chemetall operates a worldwide network of companies in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa and the Americas, with many operating their own production sites and R&D laboratories. Maintaining a decentralized organizational structure enables Chemetall’s subsidiaries to respond quickly and nimbly to local customer needs while drawing upon the vast resources of an international conglomerate.
Chemetall gained its foothold in North America with the 1991 acquisition of Oakite Products. Established in 1909 as Oakley Chemical Co., Oakite later renamed itself based on the popularity of its original product, Oakite, which was used in the heavy-duty cleaning of artillery shells during World War I.
As technology progressed, Oakite became a key supplier to the aerospace industry, says Gregg Sanko, director of Aerospace Technologies for Chemetall U.S. Inc.
In 2004, Chemetall’s parent company, Dynamit Nobel, was acquired by Princeton, N.J.-based Rockwood Specialties Inc. Chemetall’s North American headquarters are based in New Providence, N.J., with additional manufacturing facilities in California, Michigan and Mexico.
However, Sanko explains that the company plans to consolidate its manufacturing operations and move them to the new $25 million plant in Jackson Township, Mich., which will open in early 2013.
“It’s going to be a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility with all new processing tanks and computer-controlled equipment,” Sanko describes. “Through these upgrades, we will be able to provide the highest-quality products at the highest efficiency possible. Consolidating our operations will also maximize our purchasing power and keep the products affordable for our customers.”
Chemetall intends to use the plant as a “showpiece for bringing customers in and showing them our commitment to being ahead of the curve,” he says. “From a production standpoint, we take a lean sigma approach as the basis for our continuous improvement within our manufacturing.
“From a customer standpoint, we put a lot of faith into our sales force and our employees,” he adds. “We feel the closer contact we can make with the customer, the more value we can bring to them. We want the customer to look at Chemetall as more than just a supplier of chemicals.”
New Product Offerings
Chemetall aims to be a one-stop shop for aerospace applications, Sanko says. It supplies the cleaners, etchings, oxidizers and chrome conversion coatings, as well as paint strippers for aircraft maintenance, coolants, lubricants and corrosion inhibiting compounds for OEM and airframe manufacturers, aircraft sealants and non-destructive testing products used in crack detection. Globally, the company serves the major aircraft manufacturers including Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier and Embraer.
In recent years, Chemetall has introduced new coolant lubricants and sealants to benefit the aerospace industry. “Traditionally, sealants were heavy materials that contained chrome to try to prevent corrosion,” Sanko notes. Chemetall’s new NAFTOSEAL product is a lighter material made of proprietary ingredients, which reduces an aircraft’s overall weight and offers greater fuel savings.
The lack of chrome makes the product more environmentally friendly and increases worker safety, while increased adhesion properties help prevent any chance of corrosion.
Another new brand for Chemetall is a coolant lubricant known as TECH COOL, which offers better lubricity and longer sump life.
“They are bio-stable, which actually prevents bacteria from growing in them,” Sanko explains. “There is nothing for them to feed on or grow on. Also, the life of the coolant is much longer, so customers realize savings because they don’t have to consume as much material.”
Chemetall strives to produce environmentally friendly products.
“Being owned by a German company, we in the U.S. are trying to comply with the REACH legislation, which is already in place in Europe,” he says. REACH stands for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical Substances. The European law went into effect in June 2007.
“We are streamlining our vendor profile and enhancing our product portfolio to get the greenest products in the market right now,” Sanko says.