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Discovery Newsletter: Compounding cooperation

When you think of Georgia-Pacific and its many consumer products, you might think of Dixie® cups, Angel Soft® bath tissue or Brawny® paper towels, but you probably don’t think of a spot remover for carpets.

Which is why when GP’s R&D team came up with a great carpet cleaning solution, they partnered with a Koch business that offers America’s most-trusted name in carpet — INVISTA’s STAINMASTER® brand. Together, they shared knowledge to improve that product before GP began marketing it to consumers by licensing the STAINMASTER® brand.

Last September, STAINMASTER™ carpet cleaner earned headlines when it was launched nationally. It is available in specially formulated versions to deal with pet stains and high-traffic areas, as well as carpets.

Shellie Caudill, director of research and development at Georgia-Pacific, says the new product works in a different way than its well-established competitors.

“With some competing products, dirt can collect where the stain was treated. That can make it look like the stain has returned, requiring additional work to remove,” Caudill said.

“But with our STAINMASTER™ carpet care products, when the stain is treated, it really is gone, which helps make our consumers’ lives easier. INVISTA helped us get a better understanding of carpet fibers so we could make this product even better.”

According to Lisa Connolly, senior director of surfaces marketing for the STAINMASTER® brand, household cleaning products are a $25 billion market in the U.S.

“Home cleaners complement STAINMASTER® carpet. We’re convinced this is a great opportunity to continue expanding our portfolio of products,” Connolly said. “We are absolutely thrilled to partner with Georgia-Pacific to deliver this kind of innovation.”

EXTRA-SENSORY PROTECTION

Two very different Koch companies are also sharing knowledge in hopes of improving employee safety while better protecting the environment.

Flint Hills Resources and Molex are launching an ambitious experiment that involves using Molex sensors to monitor equipment at FHR’s Corpus Christi refinery complex.

Chip Hilarides, senior vice president of environmental, health and safety for Flint Hills Resources (and a former plant manager for Georgia-Pacific), explained why the experiment is so significant.

“Every year, we conduct more than 1.5 million monitoring inspections at our facilities. Many of those require 100-foot ladders, special scaffolding or up to 40 pounds of protective equipment.

“Imagine if you had to conduct 200 tests per day wearing 40 pounds of protective equipment in sometimes high-hazard conditions,” Hilarides said.

“It’s an essential role but also very laborintensive. And at least 98.5 percent of the time, we never find anything of concern.”

In mid-2015, Molex and FHR began to see an opportunity for synergy between the two companies. Their discussions soon focused on the application of Molex technology to FHR’s monitoring requirements.

“Our shared vision is to develop and install a system of leak-detection sensors that can be remotely monitored,” said Marco Spiegel, director of new product development for Molex. “We’re also considering customized sensors for monitoring vibrations and temperature.

“If we can safely and successfully replace the inefficient, labor-intensive inspection process that FHR has relied on for years, the potential for improved safety is huge. So is the potential for cost savings.”

In addition to enhanced employee safety, the experiment, if successful, will provide immediate detection rather than periodic detection — a game-changer for many processing facilities.

With those benefits in mind, FHR and Molex made a point of contacting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about their experiment. Last year, they signed a cooperative research and development agreement with the EPA and the National Risk Management Research Laboratory.

That agreement, which covers “innovative leak detection and repair approaches for fugitive emissions” calls for “full engagement” this year.

“If we’re successful with this,” Hilarides said, “there will be a lot of happy employees who no longer have to put on a lot of heavy equipment or climb tall ladders to get the job done.

“If we do this right, they’ll be able to look at a monitor and know exactly how things are operating.”

DEEP-DOWN DELIVERY

Molex technology is also being considered by Koch Agronomic Services, a subsidiary of Koch Ag & Energy Solutions, but for a much different purpose.

“Instead of taking measurements way up in the air, we want to measure something underground,” said Marshall Bird, vice president of turf and ornamental and supply chain for Koch Agronomic Services.

“Years ago, we worked with INVISTA to find ways of applying their advanced polymers to nitrogen-based fertilizers in a way that reduces volatility and increases the amount of nutrients delivered to plants.

“That knowledge sharing became an important part of our AGROTAIN® nitrogen stabilizer products,” Bird said.

“We purchase polyol from INVISTA to use as a polymer coating on our fertilizers. We know it improves performance and has environmental benefits, but we’ve never had a very accurate way of measuring that.

“If Molex can help us figure out how to design and deploy underground sensors in a way that accurately measures nitrogen uptake, that could be a real game-changer.”

As with many experiments that seem to have great potential, this one has yet to be fully developed, let alone proven.

“Conceptually, what we want to develop with Molex is easy to understand,” said Chase Koch, president of Koch Agronomic Services. “But we’re in the very, very early stages of our conversations.

“We certainly don’t have any actionable strategies yet. What we do have is a lot of interest in seeing what we can develop together.”

MORE TO COME

Other examples of knowledge sharing between Koch companies abound.

Guardian, Koch’s newest company, plans on utilizing Koch’s knowledge of logistics to do a better job transporting materials by truck, rail or ship.

Several Koch companies rely on the transport management systems of Koch Logistics to help them distribute or aggregate products.

Guardian is also interested in working with Molex to integrate electronic functionality with glass, such as touchscreens on vending machines.

Intracompany knowledge sharing is as important as intercompany sharing.

Last year, Molex’s Singapore plant found an innovative way to reduce energy costs that also reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent. That innovation was shared across the company and has now been installed at six other Molex plants.

John Pittenger, KII’s senior vice president for strategy, sees the sharing of knowledge and ideas between Koch companies as essential. “We want to innovate by combining existing knowledge and ideas in new ways,” Pittenger said. “It’s exciting to see Koch companies doing that more often and more effectively.

“But we don’t want to stop there. We want to identify great ideas outside the company, too. The more we share knowledge and ideas — regardless of where they originate — the more frequently we can come up with new and better ways to create more value using fewer resources.”