Ask the Expert

Dr. Ron Kreis, President, Bimax Inc.

Dr. Ron Kreis co-founded Bimax Inc., a specialty chemical manufacturing facility in Glen Rock, PA, in 1990 and has served as its President since 2000. Kreis has 40 years of experience in the development, manufacture and applications of monomers and polymers with special expertise in coatings, adhesives and optical applications. He has been both a member of SOCMA and the American Chemical Society of many years and was recently elected to serve on the SOCMA Board of Governors. Dr. Kreis is a graduate of Ursinus College in Collegeville, PA, and has his Ph.D in physical chemistry from the University of Delaware.

Q&A

How or why did you become involved in the specialty chemical industry and how long have you been a part of the industry? I first became involved in specialty chemicals early in my career. One of my first R&D assignments in industry was involved with emulsion polymerization where both specialty surfactants and specialty monomers are widely used. When I left my first job after five years, I landed a technical service chemist job with Alcolac, a specialty manufacturer of both monomers and surfactants. This allowed me to operate at the interface between technology and the customer. I knew then that this is where I belonged and where I remain today, now as the head of my own company. So I have spent the last almost 50 years in the specialty chemicals arena and find it as fascinating as ever.

What do you think are the most pressing challenges facing the specialty chemical industry and what solutions do you recommend for addressing them? Increasing worldwide regulation, particularly regarding new chemicals, has dampened the enthusiasm for innovation among the specialty chemical developers and manufacturers. For Bimax, much of our growth over the years can be attributed to innovative new products. REACh is particularly onerous in this regard.  Thanks to a great extent to SOCMA’s advocacy, it looks like Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reform will, thankfully, not follow the same path. One solution I can see is to use more of a risk based evaluation of new chemicals rather than an across the board “guilty until proven innocent” approach.

Do you think there should be common goals within the industry? If so, what would those goals be? Clearly a shared goal of all of the players in the industry has to be the implementation of environmentally sound and safe practices. SOCMA has provided a framework, through ChemStewards, for its members to accomplish this. Another shared goal is outreach to educate both the general public and our legislators about the importance of our products to the well-being of society. For example, Bimax’s products are used in a wide range of applications, from implantable medical devices to computer screens, to name a few.  

How would you define and measure innovation in chemistry? To me, in the broadest sense, innovation is anything that creates value. This can be the development of a more cost-efficient process, or the development of a new or higher-quality product to satisfy new or existing market needs. If customers are willing to exchange money for what has been created, that is certainly one measure of success.

Please share a couple of personal or professional strategies you intend to pursue in 2016.  I was recently elected to SOCMA’s Board of Governors. I hope during 2016 to contribute to the continued success of SOCMA.

Regarding Bimax, one of our main goals for this year is to commission our new pilot plant. We expect this to accelerate our product/process development capabilities and remove some of the inefficiencies caused by performing these functions in either the production or laboratory scale.

What are some of the major changes you have seen in the industry since you became a part of it? As a result of acquisitions or mergers, many of the companies that existed when I first became part of this industry no longer exist. In part, these consolidations were the basis for the founding of Bimax in the late 1980s. Some of our earliest business successes were a result of the product rationalization that often accompanied the consolidations occurring at that time.

The regulatory environment has changed greatly during the course of my career. Remembering that EPA and, in particular, TSCA did not exist when I started in industry, innovation was a lot easier back then. Of course, SOCMA has helped keep us up to date on these issues, as well as ease some of the most unreasonable threats of proposed regulations.

Thirdly, the specialty chemical industry, like the chemical industry in general, has become much more global both with regard to our customers and competitors.   

What advice would you give a young person thinking about going into the specialty chemical industry? If you get your kicks by being on the front line of how chemistry interacts with the real world, the specialty chemicals sector is the place to be. Almost everything we do is aimed at enabling or improving some characteristic or performance in a new or existing application. In order to do this effectively, you need to know how the products are used, so it often puts you close to the end user and the marketplace. You have direct insight and are able to see the value of your achievements. It’s a fascinating place to be.

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