Eubank leads company’s restructuring during critical financial times

Elé Corporation As a company, Elé Corporation casts a very long shadow, one that dates back to 1945 when Pelron Corporation was founded to manufacture metalworking fluids primarily for engineering applications and automotive industry suppliers. Pelron also was one of the first companies in the U.S. to explore and promote the benefits of urethane chemistry.

In 1986, Elé Corporation was created to act as Pelron’s marketing, sales, finance and administrative sister company. Together, the two companies have expanded into markets both complementary to and independent of Pelron’s core product lines.

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What is Specialty Manufacturing?

  • Specialty chemicals are manufactured on the basis of their performance or function. They can be single-chemical entities or formulations whose composition influences the performance and processing of the end product. Individual customer service to provide innovative technical solutions is an important component of the service provided by specialty chemical producers.

The process in which specialty chemicals are created is called batch processing:

  • A batch process is one in which a finite quantity of product is made during a period of a few hours or days. The batch process most often consists of introducing measured amounts of starting materials into a vessel followed by a series of unit operations (mixing, heating, reaction, distillation, etc.) taking place at discrete scheduled intervals. This is then followed by the removal and storage of the products, by-products, and waste streams. The equipment is then cleaned and made ready for the next process.

What is Specialty Manufacturing?Specialty chemical manufacturers produce organic chemicals that are used in thousands of products vital to consumers and U.S. industry. Specialty chemical manufacturing is sometimes referred to as custom or fine chemical manufacturing. The term specialty chemical is based on use and fine chemical is based on purity, yet they are both considered a part of specialty chemical manufacturing.

This unique niche in the chemical industry is innovative, entrepreneurial and consumer-driven. Specialty manufacturers make smaller quantities of chemicals that have specific performance applications.

In contrast to the production of commodity chemicals, specialty manufacturing requires that the raw materials, processes, operating conditions and equipment change on a regular basis to respond to the needs of customers.

Types of Specialty Chemical Manufacturers

Specialty chemical manufacturers can be tollers, custom chemical producers, and/or proprietary chemical producers. Whether a company operates in the specialty or fine sector, it may play in one, two or all three arenas. Specialty chemical manufacturers may serve a downstream customer, which is either a formulator* (blends materials together, but there is no chemical reaction) or another chemical manufacture (doing a reaction). Some may also operate formulating businesses as well as reaction processing.

*An example of a formulator is an adhesives company that blends various raw materials (ingredients) together into a mixture, packaged, and sold to a big-box retailer such as Walmart.

  • Toller – A company that sells its manufacturing capabilities
  • Custom chemical producer – A company that provides support on any scale (from lab to pilot plant to full-scale commercial manufacturing) for chemistry designed for an individual customer
  • Proprietary chemical producer – A company that combines various raw materials into their production process IP and sells finished goods to a downstream customer based on their IP and skills, unique intermediate capabilities, or ability to handle certain raw materials
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Specialty vs. Commodity

How Specialty Chemicals Differ from Commodity Chemicals

Specialty chemicals differ from commodity chemicals in that each one may have only one or two uses, while commodities may have dozens of different applications for each chemical. While commodity chemicals make up most of the production volume (by weight) in the global marketplace, specialty chemicals make up most of the diversity (number of different chemicals) in commerce at any given time.

Commodity chemicals are typically produced in continuous processes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Specialty chemicals, because of their complex chemistries and narrowly focused applications, are frequently produced batch-by-batch in a reaction vessel. Since continuous processes employ continuous feeds and yields, the production volume is usually far greater, per chemical, than for batch processes. The main difference, however, is that a batch process is not necessarily automated, and the chemical reaction (which yields the desired product) has a distinct beginning and ending for each batch.


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Manufacturing Processes

Chemical Manufacturing Methods: Batch vs. Continuous Processing

Chemicals are manufactured using one of two distinct methods: batch or continuous. A continuous operation requires a constant raw material feed to the process vessel and continual product withdrawal. A batch process, which is used by specialty chemical manufacturers, requires intermittent introduction of frequently changing raw materials, varying process conditions within the vessel, and different removal methods. In batch processing, vessels are often idle while waiting for raw materials or undergoing quality control checks and cleaning. Thus, emissions from batch processing are substantially different from those of continuously operating processes.

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SOCMA and Specialty Manufacturing

The major concern of specialty chemical manufacturers in 1921 was the need for barriers to foreign manufacturers importing into the United States. Members of this specialized sector of the infant chemical industry felt that American companies had the knowledge and capacity to compete against these more well-established companies in countries like Germany that were dominating the U.S. market. Thus, they created a trade association – then the Synthetic Organic Chemicals Manufacturers Association – to advocate for their needs.

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Ask the Expert

Jay Dickson,  President, Nation Ford Chemical (NFC)Jay Dickson, President,
Nation Ford Chemical (NFC)

Q: How or why did you become involved in the specialty chemical industry, and how long have you been a part of the industry?

A: As a chemical engineer, the specialty chemical industry is the perfect job that allows you to work on a variety of unique products. I started my career as a process and project engineer responsible for many aspects of process development and production. It gave me...

Legislative & Regulatory Issues

There are many legislative and regulatory issues facing the specialty chemical industry. But in late 2015, Miscellaneous Tariff Bill and Toxic Substances Control Act Reform have been the top industry issues before lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Miscellaneous Tariff Bill

The Senate and House of Representatives passed a number of trade bills this summer, but they left one outstanding: the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (HR 644). This was the only bill with substantial differences between the House and Senate...

Industry News

Ashland supports rise of the gluten-free baked goods market in Europe

Benecel™ HPMC hydrocolloid, demonstrated to improve the volume, softness, and crumb structure of gluten-free bread, is presented at the Food Ingredients Europe exhibition

WILMINGTON, DE - Gluten-free foods, established approximately 15 years ago to provide consumers with celiac disease additional food choices free of wheat, barley, and rye, today have become a mainstream product category. Last year, food and beverage companies introduced more than 20,000 products into the global marketplace with a gluten-free label designation....

Batch Processing Facts

  •   Process is a chemical reaction that takes place in a reactor (stainless steel, glass lined, etc.).
  •   Reactors range in size from kilogram-scale containers to units up to several hundred kilograms in size and are typically less than 16 feet high.
  •   Batch processing allows different products to be made in the same reactor or system.
  •   A batch producer can make more than 100 different chemicals in a given year.
  •   Batch processing is used when there is not enough product demand to make continuously.
  •   Batch processing is more practical and feasible for multi-step synthesis.
  •   Batch processing allows chemists to maximize the yield of a desired compound, which reduces waste.
  •   Batch processing can reduce overall process complexity.

By the Numbers

The following numbers represent the impact of SOCMA member companies on the specialty chemical sector.

  •    $24 billion – Total value of SOCMA member products and services.
  •   46,500 – Number of employees SOCMA members employ in the United States.
  •   93 and 192 – SOCMA members export to as few as 93 and as many as 192 countries.
  •   18% – Percentage of sales member companies generate through exports.
  •   $815,000 – Average expenditure of SOCMA members on meeting government regulations in 2010.

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Laboratory Products Glossary

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HPLC, High performance Liquid Chromatography – a way to tell purity of non-volatile materials, a technique used in analytical chemistry to separate compounds in a mixture. It is used in the medical industry detecting vitamins in blood samples, separating synthetic chemicals from each other.



Specialty chemicals go into many different sectors...


Product Applications

Specialty chemicals go into many different sectors, including:

  •   Adhesives and pressure-sensitive tapes
  •   Automobiles
  •   Clothing and textiles
  •   Computers
  •   Cosmetics, soaps, personal hygiene products
  •   Crop protection
  •   Detergents and cleaners
  •   Electronics
  •   Flavors and fragrances
  •   Food Products
  •   Gasoline, tires and lubricants
  •   Inks, dyes and pigments
  •   Medicine
  •   Paints, varnishes, sealers, and other coatings
  •   Performance chemicals
  •   Petrochemicals
  •   Plastics

Specialty Chemicals

Specialty chemicals can be material additives that enhance performance, ingredients in a formulation or mixture or intermediates, which are compounds used to make other chemicals.



Why They’re Special

What’s Special about Specialty Chemicals?


Specialty chemicals:


  •   Are generally characterized by their innovative aspects.
  •   Are sold for what they can do rather than what they contain.
  •   Are relatively high valued, rapidly growing chemicals with diverse end product markets.
  •   Have unique characteristics with applications in a myriad of sectors.
  •   Have higher market growth rates and prices.

Specialty Businesses

Specialty Manufacturing Businesses


  •   Contract Manufacturing
    •     •  Batch producer makes a compound, under contract, for another chemical company

    •     •  Often done in small quantities
  •   Research & Development
    •     •  Specialize in specific type of chemistry and perform R&D for other companies
  •   Pilot and Development
    •     •  Test production methods and techniques on a small scale prior to commercialization
  •   Niche chemical market companies for small quantity chemicals

Industries Served

Curious about which industries SOCMA members serve?


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