Mark Dearman, general manager of Rubicon LLC and the Huntsman Geismar, La., site, believes leadership roles today take quite a bit more effort when compared to years past. The reason for this is managing human interaction is becoming increasingly more focused. Much effort is also required to meet the demands of the 21st century, which is leading to expansions much like the one Huntsman Geismar is currently undergoing.
“Productivity continues to improve across the globe in all industries,” Dearman said. “The only way you can sustain a high level of performance is to benchmark and continue to closely manage the performance of your organization. As a leader, communication must be consistent and credible. I firmly believe leadership drives the culture of an organization and culture drives behavior. Leaders influence culture by setting clear expectations, building structure, teaching others and stewarding results.”
Dearman has been general manager of the Geismar site, as well as operations director of Huntsman Polyurethanes Americas, since 2009. As general manager, Dearman is responsible for all facets of the site operation. As operations director for Huntsman, he serves on the Global Operations Leadership Team and the Americas Leadership Team for the Polyurethanes Division.
Dearman began his career with Rubicon as a process engineer in early 1989, after receiving a chemical engineering degree from Louisiana State University. Since that time, he has held numerous positions at the Geismar site, including roles in process engineering, major projects, production management and director of Supply Chain.
Site expansion enables modernization, cost efficiency
Rubicon began operation in 1966 as a joint venture (JV) between ICI and Uniroyal (now Chemtura). In 1999, Huntsman acquired the ICI Polyurethanes business and its ownership in the JV. The site produces methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), polyols, maleic anhydride, nitrobenzene and aniline. Other products produced on site include DPA (diphenylamine) for Chemtura.
Recently, Huntsman announced an investment of $78 million to expand the Geismar site. The expansion will provide an additional 50 kilotons of MDI capacity and extensive modernization of the facility’s operations. It will also create 17 new direct jobs and 60 indirect jobs, and underpin the 397 existing jobs.
“We are still on track for completion [of the upgrades] by the end of 2014,” Dearman said. “This expansion will provide an additional 10-percent capacity on our MDI operations and will continue to keep us cost competitive, modern and efficient for the years ahead.”
In reflecting on changes to plant personnel, Dearman sees nothing but positive results in the future.
“We want to continue to evolve as an organization,” he said. “Our goal is to achieve manufacturing excellence in all we do. We want to continue to build a strong and robust organization that has the bench strength for many years to come, but we also want to remain globally competitive in the industries we serve. That takes a lot of hard work. It’s all about continuing to recruit, train and retain the right level of talent.”
Dearman is equally excited about the future of the industry.
“The benefits of U.S. shale gas will no doubt provide a significant cost advantage to all of the operations along the Gulf Coast,” he said. “I think the future is very bright for the next decade plus; however, what we focus on is more than just that. You have to remain competitive across the board and look for ways to become more efficient and acquire a higher level of skills.”
With this boom comes the challenges of a changing work force and the recruitment of new talent, Dearman said.
“Most of the plants in the area began operations in the late 1960s and early 1970s and are finally retiring many of their long-term career people,” he said. “The resulting transition and turnover require a continual backfill of new talent into the organization. The challenge is to bring that talent in with the same passion, energy and drive for excellence as their peers across the globe.
“Where are we going to get the skilled craftsmen, carpenters, pipe fitters, welders and others to construct and maintain our present and future plants? The forecast shows a need for an additional 25,000 craftsmen in the Greater Baton Rouge, La., area over the next five years. That’s a big challenge. Kids are not coming out of school today saying, ‘I want to be a pipe fitter, welder or electrician.’ They all want to go to college to do something; they just don’t know what yet. There are so many good paying jobs in skilled crafts. We have to turn the tide and get more young people interested in these good paying, technical trade jobs.”
‘It starts with the people’
Huntsman’s core value is that their people are the most important assets on site.
“It all starts with the people,” Dearman said. “It’s not about billon-dollar machinery. If you don’t have the right people with the right focus and mindset every day, it’s hard to achieve success. Sustaining the best possible safety culture takes a tremendous amount of energy every day, and it’s something we’ve done a very good job at in recent years. Two of the past three years have been the safest years ever at the Geismar site, but we don’t rest on that result. If there is one minor injury, we want to figure out how to mitigate that one minor injury.
“One of the messages I like to use with my team is real leadership inspires self accountability. This is critical at all levels of leadership in an organization. You want people to work safely and embrace a zero injury mindset 100 percent of the time, not just when someone is watching. Their families and co-workers are counting on them. When you reach this level of commitment, then you really have the accountability and ownership that will lead to the best possible result.”
In addition to safety, the company focuses on supporting the community in which the site operates.
“We place a very high priority on community outreach and giving back to the local community,” Dearman said. “Our employees have a very generous spirit of giving and want to get involved in those activities. We focus a great deal on the local efforts and partnerships. Whether it is schools, churches or local nonprofits for those with disabilities, we try to spread out our efforts so we touch as many people as we can. We truly value the trust the local community places in us to operate safely and responsibly.”
Staying informed, involved
Dearman believes staying informed of the industry’s developments and advancements is crucial.
“I read a lot of the trade publications and keep up with industry news bulletins,” he said. “Of course, I read BIC Magazine. I’m active in the local industry alliances, like the Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance and the Louisiana Chemical Association/Louisiana Chemical Industry Alliance, which all do a great job of representing industry.
“Our industries have a tremendous multiplier effect on jobs so for every one job a plant creates, four or five more jobs are created in the service sector. The ultimate goal is to achieve long-term sustainable growth for our industry, and that requires many key partners along the way; you can’t go at it alone.”
Huntsman Geismar Site —
9156 Hwy. 75
P.O. Box 517
Geismar, LA 70734
Employees: 400 Rubicon employees and approximately 250 full-time contractors
Products: MDI (methylene diphenyl diisocyanate), polyols, maleic anhydride, nitrobenzene, aniline and DPA (diphenylamine)
Size: 82 acres