The Best Secret is a Kept Secret

Mallard Creek Polymers

The world of synthetic emulsion polymers is all around us. Everything from paints, adhesives, and textiles to construction, paper, printing, and packaging are enhanced with these complex coatings.
~
Mallard Creek Polymers of Charlotte, North Carolina is one of the country’s foremost manufacturers of these versatile polymers. Customers from around the world put their trust in its proprietary formulations to improve and define their products. The company’s strict confidentiality policy, of course, makes it even more sought-after as manufacturers’ know that their secrets remain safe.

“Water-based emulsion polymers are safe and environmentally friendly alternatives to solvent-based polymers. [That’s why] many of our products are used in applications like packaging alternatives to traditional plastics,” says Vice President and General Manager Thayne R. Hansen. Many of the company’s customers are international giants who come for the custom-made formulations that give their products an edge in competitive commodity markets.

Mallard Creek Polymers has over sixty years of expertise and the vast accumulated knowledge of its 110 experts both in America and Europe. Its polymer experts have extensive experience in many customers’ industries, giving Mallard Creek Polymers a more comprehensive view of clients’ needs within the overall market.

“No one is a cog in the machine. Our flat organization enables every employee to see their contribution when they leave work each day. All our employees are eligible for a financial reward when the company succeeds,” says Thayne.

Its positive staff retention rate is impressive with some of its employees serving for forty years or more, lending continuity and consistency to its operation and its formulations. The company has taken particularly large strides in establishing itself as a visionary in the field over the last fifteen years.

The secret of success for this company in the global latex polymer industry has been its ability to take customers’ challenges and create next-generation water-based, emulsion polymers. “The chemistry that is finding broad acceptance in a variety of applications is our styrene-butadiene latex products. Once primarily used in paper coatings and carpet back-coating, these unique polymers are now used in all synthetic emulsion polymer markets because of its balance of tensile and elongation [elasticity and plasticity], excellent water resistance, adhesion to difficult substrates, and filler acceptance,” says Thayne.

These days, styrene acrylic and all acrylic emulsion polymers can be found in graphic arts, interior paints, and much more thanks to their great adhesion to surfaces, flexibility, water resistance, and ability to protect the material against the sun’s damaging UV rays. The material is also highly useful for holding fillers, a range of powdered substances that are added to enhance the liquid’s physical properties and to make it more affordable.

This polymer manufacturer is the go-to for often unexpected applications that give products what they need to really differentiate themselves. “We understand the value of each type of chemistry and the challenges that each customer may face in the use of our products,” adds Thayne. Through extensive research and development, Mallard Creek Polymers has developed water-based emulsion polymers that can then be used in the diverse and innovative applications for which the company has become known.

The topic of bestsellers is naturally a tough call, as Mallard Creek Polymers has such high volumes of really popular products. “We have many products that can be called ‘workhorse’ grades that are used in applications such as carpet back coatings, inks, and coatings for food packaging, and nonwoven web binder applications,” says Thayne.

Mallard Creek Polymers can supply high-performance polymers to both large and smaller specialized markets. “Every day, we receive inquiries from existing customers and new prospects working on applications that our team has a long history with, but the most valuable inquiries are for novel applications which require deep technical exploration, often resulting in new product development,” Thayne adds.

The company’s history of unsurpassed service and quality products began when Drake Chemical Company set up a manufacturing facility on Mallard Creek Road in Charlotte, North Carolina. The plant changed hands several times and eventually became an independent, privately held asset of the Parekh Capital Group, in 1995. This is when the operation took its current name and started specializing in the manufacture and sale of styrene-butadiene emulsion polymers.

The company continued to add to its already impressive collection of technologies, purchasing intellectual property of Ecronova Polymer GmbH in Germany in 2018. This created MCP Europe GmbH, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mallard Creek Polymers, Inc. Every acquisition has allowed the company to expand and grow alongside its customers, keeping it ahead of the development curve and in step with market demands.

Its German operation, MCP Europe GmbH, serves customers throughout Europe, although its North American products are also available globally. Thanks to strategic acquisitions, its technology heritage combines the knowledge and secrets of five emulsion producers, making it a force to be reckoned with in the world of advanced water-based polymers.

What started as a company with an entry-level range of styrene-butadiene polymer emulsions in various grades has turned into a world leader in innovation. The company prides itself on offering its clients what they need, rather than flooding the market with products.

There is also a consideration for the natural environment. “Our company takes great pride in our environmental and safety record,” says Thayne. The company has been a Carolina Star Site participant since 2000. Thayne tells us that its environmental management is upheld as a core value with a heavy emphasis on continuous improvement to ensure pollution prevention, protection, and regulatory compliance.

“We have been striving to operate our plant with great efficiency and have more than doubled the volume of product produced here as well as doubled the number of employees over the last fifteen years,” he adds.

It has been dedicated to environmental safety even amidst its phenomenal growth and has received Charlotte Water’s ‘Environmental Excellence Silver’ award for ten consecutive years. It also won the Mecklenburg County Air Quality (MCAQ) ACE award for ongoing air compliance excellence in 2018, and a gold certificate of safety achievement in recognition of its extensive safety and health efforts in 2017. It also holds 9001:2015 certifications from the International Organization for Standardization indicating its compliance with relevant statutory and regulatory requirements, as well as customer satisfaction.

Thayne Hansen had a twenty-six-year career with Dow Chemical and was involved in two other emulsion operations before joining the Mallard Creek Polymers’ board. “I now have the opportunity to blend the operating discipline of a large multinational within a customer-centric business model,” he says. And, while it is not always easy to find operating efficiency in very small but specialized requests, the vastness of its product range means the company can find options that meet both efficiency and product specifications.

Its clients are not the only people to whom this company is devoted. It is active in doing good and particularly focuses on community projects. Some of its contributions go toward natural disaster relief operations like when Hurricanes Harvey and Matthew hit the country. It is also a contributor to TAPPI Fun Run 5K. Proceeds go toward scholarship funds that assist students in obtaining a career in the paper industry. Mallard Creek Polymers also assists with internships at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, as well as community outreach work.

Looking toward the future, Thayne sees the continued trend of consolidation as an opportunity for the company to expand. “Big companies continue to get bigger, having less time and people to work with customers. This trend will create opportunities for Mallard Creek Polymers to continue to grow,” he says. This no doubt bodes well for the company’s vision of growing both its American market share and its foothold in Europe and Asia.

Working Smarter

A key goal of any successful manufacturing operation is a continual drive toward improving the efficiency of the manufacturing process. Traditionally, this has been accomplished through the adoption of lean production principles, waste reduction using the Six Sigma approach, and similar productivity solutions. These systems have been widely incorporated throughout the manufacturing industry and have significantly improved product quality, production speeds, and perhaps most importantly, the safety of those working in manufacturing plants.

Past Issues

October 15, 2019, 7:48 AM EDT