A Century of Industry Leadership—and Still Growing
Armed with a broad portfolio of mold release agents and cleaners for polyurethanes, composites and other plastics, ACMOS is an international technology leader.
The Bremen, Germany-based company develops and produces release agents, special coatings, and cleaning agents for the plastics industry, wood processing, foundry, and glass industries. It also supplies coolants, anti-corrosion agents, cutting oils, and other processing aids to the metal industry. ACMOS enjoys a global presence through its worldwide network of subsidiaries and sales partners and boasts an export quota of over seventy percent.
Founded in 1909, ACMOS got its start primarily as a trading company. Within a few decades, the company began developing its own chemicals, laying the groundwork for the international powerhouse we see today. It truly took off in the 1950s with the development of release agents for the polyurethane seats used in automobiles.
“We entered into a development program with Ford in Europe back in the 1950s, when polyurethane seats were first developed,” says Mark Hesseling, President of ACMOS Inc, the company’s subsidiary in North America. The company immediately expanded on that success. “Ever since then, we really broadened our portfolio in release agents and cleaners to now quickly growing from not only polyurethane but also going into wood manufacturing, composites, rubber, thermoplastics, glass, and other applications.”
Its personalized approach sets the company apart. “We tend to custom-formulate a lot of our products specifically to our customers’ process,” Hesseling says. “We really want to optimize the cycle time of our customers’ process. We want to reduce their scrap rate as far as we can and, of course, make sure that the parts that they produce have the best surface quality as well. So that really makes us different from our competition, who tend to offer more off the shelf or standardized products.”
And that is not the only way ACMOS sets itself apart. “A second way that we differentiate ourselves is through our hands-on technical support,” he says. “We have a team of technical salespeople who provide a wealth of hands-on support during initial trials but also troubleshooting if there are issues in the production environment or if the customer is looking for ways to further optimize the use of our product.” Over thirty percent of the company’s employees globally work in either product development or technical customer support, ensuring customers receive the personalized attention they deserve.
ACMOS also stands out as a fifth-generation, family-owned business. The family is still active in the day-to-day management of the company 112 years after its founding. “Family-owned companies tend to not survive after the third generation in many cases,” Hesseling points out. “But we’ve been quite successful.” In fact, the company has managed to stay completely financially independent.
The family’s continued involvement has helped shape the company culture, creating a positive environment for both the employers and the employees. “There is a closeness to this business,” he says. “As a family business, we care about our employees, maybe a little bit differently than most publicly-traded companies do… We are a family business in every sense.”
This close-knit culture is demonstrated by how long employees tend to stick around. “The average tenure with the company is in the twenty years [range],” Hesseling says. “We have people that have been with the company for forty years, so there’s a certain loyalty, both by the ownership and the management toward the employees, as well as the employees toward the management and the ownership. So it’s a very reciprocal loyalty that we find in the business. It is a very trusting environment. People have a lot of freedom to do their job, and I think it’s a very good environment to work in.”
ACMOS is in the midst of an exciting expansion in the United States, which will enable the company to serve its North American customers better. The company has already been producing some products in the United States through contract manufacturing, but will soon take on more of the manufacturing process. “Since the challenges brought on by COVID and all the shutdowns around the world and all the logistical issues, we’ve really accelerated our plans to produce more of the products we sell in North America stateside,” he reports.
COVID’s effect on the business has been far-reaching, but it has managed to overcome the difficulties. “It is quite a challenge,” he says. “Many automotive manufacturers had to shut down their operations during the second quarter, so our sales to automotive companies were affected quite a bit. Fortunately, we’re diversified enough to absorb some of those reductions in sales.”
Although the company’s primary emphasis has traditionally been on the automotive industry, ACMOS was able to make up the loss by selling to other markets, particularly the construction industry and the sports and recreation industry, “which are markets that have gone up quite a bit,” Hesseling says. “So that’s helped us a lot from a sales and profitability point of view.”
“From a materials point of view, it’s been quite a challenge because of all the logistical issues that we’ve seen around the world moving raw materials [and] finished products from one region to the next. And one of the ways that we’ve been able to buffer some of those challenges is by bringing on more inventory in our warehouses of our finished products. We did that to make sure that once our customers started back up they would not have any issues being supplied with our products.”
The company looks forward to continued expansion in the future. “We’re definitely growing,” he says. “We have been growing for the last few years, and I see us really accelerating that growth now in the near to midterm with the help of more local manufacturing. It’s going to really set up for some accelerated growth as a business.” The next step is to hire more people and to focus on increasing sales.
ACMOS also plans to continue diversifying. “Going back to the challenges that we saw from COVID, I think it’s also important to further diversify our business, beyond being too reliant on automotive,” says Hesseling. “It’s important for us to stay financially healthy and take care of our employees by making sure that we’ve got a very well-balanced group of customers and technologies that we can rely on.”
After more than a century in business and with the founding family still at the helm, ACMOS boasts an impressive track record. The company is well prepared to endure current challenges, expand and diversify, and continue to thrive.