A flexible approach17 June 2002
The founder of Chemtan, Rolf Quarck, saw that larger companies in the US were neglecting R&D and chemical product development in the tanning industry and switching to other markets. Quarck decided to go it alone in 1948 and dedicate a chemical company selling wet-end chemicals to the tanning industry. Chemtan have remained committed to the leather industry ever since and still pride themselves on their flexibility, technical product range and customer service. Their research and product development activities, headed by David Ouellette, have seen the introduction of six new tanning chemicals so far this year. Details of the new products are included in our product news pages. Half of the company's sales are in the domestic market with the remainder exported to major markets such as China, Mexico, Taiwan and South Korea. They have a network of international agents located throughout the major leather producing markets. 'Chemtan is a very reactive company', says Ronald Sklarski, financial manager and partner. 'As the local market decreased we looked overseas and so far the switch has been very good for us with exports continuing to improve.' At the time of the visit from Leather International Chemtan had several sales and technical staff in China and Korea including the current company president John 'Jack' Mitchell. 'As well as the usual high level of customer service, shipping is becoming more and more important within the business', Sklarski added. According to Sklarski, the tanning market in the US has begun to pick-up following a difficult 2001. In both the domestic and export markets, Chemtan have seen a significant improvement in orders since March and business into April and May was 'extremely busy'. Last year was particularly difficult, especially on the domestic market with a number of medium large tanners closing or moving offshore. Chemtan are located on the outskirts of the small southern New Hampshire town of Exeter approximately one hour north of Boston. The 12,000 sq ft building, located on a 20-acre site in Exeter, is the company headquarters and features the blending and manufacturing plant, laboratory, warehouse and offices. They also have a regional office in Wisconsin. Chemtan specialise in producing chemicals for the post tanning operations. Their product range includes several hundred retanning agents, dyes and fatliquors. In recent years Chemtan have concentrated their efforts on leather waterproofing and flame retarding systems, syntans, polymers and enzymatic retanning. They have also been ISO9002 certified for five years. One of the founding philosophy's of Chemtan has been co-operative ownership. They have a strict company policy of allowing no additional family members to work or own the company. Only current working staff are allowed to own a stake in the company which has to be relinquished when the partner leaves or retires. This philosophy allows new employees a chance to participate in the ownership of the firm. Currently there are six Chemtan partners from a total of 15 employees. 'We are a very lean operation and we have little staff rotation', says Sklarski.