Article Published: December 9, 2015
Article Published: December 9, 2015
One of the world’s leading polymer materials suppliers and a Pittsburgh icon has a brand-new identity. On September 1, 2015, Bayer MaterialScience became an independent company, operating under the new name Covestro. The company continues a nearly six-decade history as a world-leading manufacturer of high-tech polymer materials for key sectors such as transportation, construction, electronics, furniture, sports equipment and textiles. With its products and applications, Covestro is ready to fulfill its new vision: to make the world a brighter place.
To gain more insight into Covestro and its investments in southwestern Pennsylvania, Made in PA spoke with Covestro’s President of North America, Jerry MacCleary. We wanted to get more insight on the key changes, the company’s products, and how it will continue to use southwestern Pennsylvania as an innovation hub. Here’s what MacCleary had to say.
MADE in PA: Bayer MaterialScience made headlines when it
announced it was going to separate from Bayer AG and become Covestro. Tell us about the change, the new name and what it means for the company moving forward.
Jerry MacCleary: It was just over a year ago that Bayer announced its intention to float the material science business on the stock market and focus exclusively on the life sciences. This was a big change for us at Bayer MaterialScience, but it also presented a tremendous opportunity. Becoming an independent company meant that we could compete on a global scale with greater speed, flexibility and efficiency.
Almost as soon as the news broke, the work toward separation
began. This past year was spent building up our organization so that we could support ourselves as a standalone business. A lot of work went on behind the scenes to prepare for the separation date. But perhaps the more anticipated date was June 1, when we unveiled our new name.
The press release originated out of our global headquarters in
Germany. They have a six-hour jumpstart on us, so the news arrived here in the middle of the night. When employees came into work the following morning, an email from our global CEO ended months of speculation about the new name.
That was our first introduction to Covestro. The name derives its meaning from a combination of words reflecting the new identity: collaboration, well-invested and strong. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly our employees embraced the new name. The toughest part was preventing them from using it until we were legally separated. That was still a few months away, and we needed the time to begin the rebranding process.
On September 1, we could officially start handing out our Covestro business cards. There were employee celebration events all around the world to commemorate the launch of our new company. Here in Pittsburgh, we had a BBQ picnic for 850 employees and contractors.
In some ways, we are a brand new company. We have a new name with a colorful identity to match. It will take some time to build the brand recognition we had with Bayer, but I’m confident we will get there. We have a new vision, mission and values. And we have a bold new direction – to create material solutions that push the boundaries of sustainability and innovation.
But in some respects, we haven’t changed at all. I like to say that we’ve kept what makes us great. We’re still the same team of
industry-leading scientists, engineers and innovators. And we’re building our future on a rich history of groundbreaking discoveries in the chemical industry.
MADE in PA: You have a great vision: To make the world a brighter place. Give us a quick overview of your products and industries that you serve and how Covestro fulfills that vision.
Jerry MacCleary: We’re a leading producer of high-tech polymers globally. Our products and solutions are used in a wide range of industries, including automotive, building and construction, electronics and medical. You’ll find our materials in mattresses and pillows, refrigerator insulation, paint coatings, LED lights and much more. In short, Covestro is all around you.
When we talk about making the world a brighter place, we fulfill that vision by developing solutions that benefit society and the environment. Let me give you just a few examples.
In terms of styling, safety and performance, the vehicles of today have made great strides from their predecessors of even a few years ago, and Covestro is taking them even further. Our polycarbonate is a smart substitute for metal and glass parts in cars. It is lighter—reducing weight and subsequently, fuel consumption—and we know that increased miles-per-gallon is a key selling point for today’s consumers. Replacing glass with plastic also makes it possible to achieve styling elements that were impossible before. Just think back to the headlights that were on the car you drove 10 or 15 years ago, and then take a look around at the headlamps that are on the road today. Big difference.
Building and construction is another important area for us. Our materials not only help lower energy consumption to enhance building efficiency, but also help to strengthen and support structures to stand up to tough weather conditions. You’ll find applications of our materials, including insulation, lighting and decorative flooring in many of the structures where we live, work and play.
Our materials are also used day-in and day-out in hospitals, labs, doctors’ offices, homes and everywhere else medical devices and equipment are used. One particular growth area is wearable medical devices, such as heart rate monitors and blood glucose level monitors. Along with improvements related to the medical technology itself, material innovations are also integral to making these increasingly sophisticated devices possible. Medical equipment manufacturers are creating new designs intended to streamline the shape of wearable medical devices to help improve the patient experience. One of our greatest strengths is collaborating with our customers—and their customers—to bring the right solutions to market.
MADE in PA: Bayer and Bayer MaterialScience are part of the Pittsburgh region’s innovation bedrock. How will Covestro continue to do business in the region?
Jerry MacCleary: That’s a great question. Our ties to Pittsburgh go back more than 50 years, so the city is very much a part of us. While our name has changed, we remain very committed to the city and its people.
Case in point: Pittsburgh is still home to our North American headquarters as well as the region’s premiere technical center. We
continue to have a substantial corporate presence here, with roughly 750 people working full time at our Robinson Township location. Covestro and its employees have a rich history of volunteering and giving back to the community—and that will continue.
In fact, we just announced a $300,000 grant to Robert Morris University to establish the Covestro Employee Engagement Institute, or CEEI, and to take employee volunteerism to the next level. CEEI will provide innovative training and education programs for employees in corporations and local nonprofit service organizations. Research has shown that employees who feel more connected to their region want to stay there. For us, this is a win-win: Not only will it have a positive impact in this community, but it will also help us recruit and retain talent, which is one of our top priorities. We hope this first grant signifies just how committed Covestro remains to Pittsburgh and its people.
MADE in PA: Sustainability has become a top concern for nearly every person and business. What does that mean for Covestro and how do Covestro’s products help us all stay on a sustainable path?
Jerry MacCleary: Simply put, our commitment to sustainability has a constant impact on the products we produce, the manner in which they are produced, and the markets we serve. How do we accomplish this? Through innovation.
We are constantly developing materials that are more eco-friendly, and applying these materials in such markets as building and construction, transportation and alternative energy—to name just a few. One example of this sustainable innovation is our Dream Production Project, which is turning carbon dioxide from a waste greenhouse gas into an ingredient for producing premium polyurethane foam—the type of foam that is found in many everyday items, including upholstered furniture, shoes and automotive parts, and is also used to insulate buildings and refrigeration equipment.
I’d like to talk more specifically about the need for sustainability in the building and construction market. Approximately 40 percent of the nation’s total energy is used by buildings. For that reason, it’s clear that energy efficiency is vital to reducing energy use. Our polyurethane insulation products for commercial buildings play a vital role in reducing energy consumption and preventing greenhouse gas emissions. We can see an example of this right here in Pittsburgh, at the Energy Innovation Center, or EIC.
EIC is the former Connelley trade school on Bedford Avenue in the Hill District. This facility, a familiar sight for many Pittsburghers, stood empty for years. Now, it has opened its doors as a LEED Platinum facility that will be a vital resource for workforce, economic and community development.
Covestro is providing technical expertise and materials, such as our spray polyurethane foam, as well as financial support for the retrofit. EIC is an ideal opportunity for us to support three things we’re passionate about as an organization: Pittsburgh, our longtime home; STEM education, which powers our workforce; and sustainable building and construction—an important market for our materials.
But perhaps the most dramatic illustration of our innovative approach to sustainability is our involvement with Solar Impulse—an aircraft that is breaking headlines with its around-the-world flight powered only by the sun. Solar Impulse is a flying laboratory of our materials—from our
insulating materials in the cockpit and batteries to thin plastic sheets for the window, as well as raw materials for the silvery coating covering large portions of the aircraft. More importantly, it is also a showcase for testing our high-performance materials and developing potential applications for other industries, such as lightweight parts in cars to reduce fuel consumption.
MADE in PA: As part of a global company, what other trends are you paying attention to?
Jerry MacCleary: Ten years ago, the U.S. chemical industry was in trouble. Production facilities were shuttered and moved offshore. Employment dropped. A decade later, we’re looking at a completely different picture.
The affordable and abundant supply of natural gas has been a game changer for U.S. manufacturers. Many sectors, including the chemical industry, are making the most of this energy advantage, investing in new facilities and expanding existing plants.
The shale gas boom benefits companies like ours, because we use it as both a fuel source and a raw material. In addition, like many U.S. manufacturing companies, we benefit from the overall economic vitality created by low-cost energy.
Of course, we’ll continue to closely follow the situation in the U.S. and elsewhere, aligning our global operations so that we leverage evolving market conditions for the benefit of our customers and shareholders.
MADE in PA: Where do you see areas of growth and further innovation for Covestro?
Jerry MacCleary: Overall, we have a public commitment to sustainability, and this is a major part of our strategy for delivering profitable growth. With that in mind, I believe we will continue on our path of developing solutions that benefit society and the environment by addressing the challenges of an ever-changing world, including climate change, resource scarcity, population change and urbanization.
For instance, we will continue to look for ways to improve the energy efficiency of buildings through our insulation materials. We will also continue to work with automakers, providing them with new materials that can help take their concepts for safe, lightweight and attractive vehicles from the drawing board to the showroom floor.
Every day, in labs around the world and right here in Pittsburgh, our scientists are hard at work focusing on meeting the needs of today and tomorrow…developing new applications for our materials, and more efficient and sustainable processes for producing them. By helping our customers develop entirely new products or improve existing ones, we are proud to have a hand in shaping the future and, in the words of our new vision statement, to make the world a brighter place.