Joe Mausar earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial design from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1970, and his first job involved designing graphic signage systems for large architectural complexes. Little did he know that he would actually spend the majority of his career working with tapes, labels and glues.
Mausar will retire this year after 37 years in the adhesives industry. I recently had the opportunity to speak with him about his career, the changes he’s seen over the years and his plans for the future.
How did you get into the adhesives industry?In 1974, I joined the Fasson division of Avery International (now Avery Dennison) in Chicago. I joined them as a national accounts manager. In that position, I was responsible (along with five other guys) for developing new business opportunities for pressure-sensitive materials. Our main focus was transitioning existing label applications that were either glue-applied labels or direct product decoration technologies over to PSA labels.
I transferred to Fasson’s Painesville, Ohio, headquarters and from 1977-1987, I was involved in a number of market areas. During the period I was with Fasson, I also earned my MBA from Baldwin-Wallace College in Cleveland.
I joined Chemsultants in 1999 as Marketing manager. I was responsible for identifying new business opportunities, both for markets they were already involved in (like pressure-sensitive tapes, labels, base materials) and looking at other markets where there might be business opportunities. Like everyone else in the world, we were interested in medical and electronics.
How has the industry changed over the years?When I joined Chemsultants, we were heavily involved with the PSA industry-probably 75% of our business back then was directly related to pressure-sensitive adhesives. Most of the work we did was on PSA tapes and labels. Today, only about 25% of our business involves PSAs.
Much the same as today, product performance testing was really key back at that time. Our clients were interested in ongoing performance of their existing products, as well as new replacement adhesive technologies. We were doing a lot of comparison work between solvent-based emulsion, water-based and hot-melt adhesives, comparing and contrasting performance differences. Even when I joined Chemsultants back in ’99, there was a strong drive to move away from solvent-based adhesives. That had been going on since I was with Fasson in the mid-70s.
We also did a fair amount of QA/QC testing for clients, both for incoming materials that customers were going to convert into tapes or labels, and also for end-use customers who would actually buy converted pressure-sensitive products. We did a lot of QA/QC testing for both of them, helping them to ensure that what they were getting in the door would satisfy the end customers’ needs.
It’s interesting that, even in ’99 when I started, most of the testing was limited (in the pressure-sensitive industry anyway) as far as who was doing it. There were just a few labs like us. Obviously, the large PSA manufacturers did a lot of testing. But label and tape converters did very little testing back then. We did a lot of testing for them. Interestingly enough, a lot of them today have their own internal testing capabilities. We’ve helped a lot of them set up QC/QA labs; many of them have actually bought testing equipment from our sister division, Cheminstruments, so things have changed over the years.
A lot of people were moving away from the solvent adhesives that they were used to and had a history with, to water-based adhesives or hot melts. There was always a caveat from the mid-70s to the mid-90s that you couldn’t make a permanent hot-melt adhesive that would perform as well as a solvent-based adhesive. So there was some hesitancy. People wanted to get away from solvents and hazardous materials, but they wanted to make sure that the new adhesives would perform for them. And since they didn’t have a way to evaluate that, we were used in a lot of cases to do that for them.
Most of the testing we did early on was pretty simple. There are three basic properties of all pressure-sensitive adhesives: peel, tack and shear. Most of the testing we did was pretty limited to peel adhesion tests, tack tests and shear tests. We weren’t doing a lot of application-related testing. Testing was done in lab conditions on stainless steel test panels, and customers were trying to translate that information into whether the adhesive would actually perform on their specific substrate.
Today, we do a lot of testing on customer-specific substrates and on other test panel materials. We do elevated- and low-temperature testing. We’re actually getting into some significant ultra-slow-rate de-bonding tests for clients to see how adhesives are really going to work over time. Testing has really changed. A dozen, 15 years ago, we might take a look at the viscosity of an adhesive. Today, we look at rheological properties. It’s a lot more in depth, more extensive.
How has government regulation affected the industry?Everyone’s familiar with the EPA [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]. We’ve all lived with them for the almost 40 years. Obviously, the EPA and TSCA [Toxic Substances Control Act] in the U.S. have had an impact, and so have the recent REACH [Regulation, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals] legislation and regulations in Europe. For the last couple of decades, the adhesives industry had to look at meeting regulations almost on an individual state basis with regard to VOCs. We started out with some general EPA regulations and guidance, and by the time we get to TSCA 15 years later, we’re looking at, “What can I produce in this plant in this state, and what can I sell in that state?” It’s gotten a lot more complex. I know that there’s some change in the regulations happening with regard to TSCA, which will hopefully be a little bit clearer and less restrictive.
The industry has become global in scope, so even though you might be a U.S. manufacturer of adhesives or sealants, REACH is going to affect you if you want to send those products into Europe. If you’re a manufacturer in Europe or you have an operation in Europe, REACH is going to affect what solvents and chemicals you bring in. We’ve seen big, big changes over the last 20-30 years due to regulations.
Green is not just a color, and sustainability is not just how long an adhesive is going to last. There’s a big movement to look at bio-based adhesives. Everyone knows what the volatility-in prices, in supply-has been with petroleum-based raw materials. Bio-based is going to give us a chance to move away from some of those issues. Moving to low- or no-VOC raw materials will enable us to address biodegradability issues, as well as compostability, pulpability and recycling. Everyone expects that there will be significant costs savings in feed stocks and raw materials as bio-based adhesives really replace, to a large extent, petro-based.
What advice do you have for industry newcomers?They’re going to be entering a really dynamic and exciting industry. One of the really big changes is that the industry has truly become global in scope since I’ve become involved. Because change is constant, I’d suggest that they make sure that they keep current on what’s happening in the industry, particularly from a knowledge standpoint. Things change so fast, I think you need to be integrally involved in the industry. You can’t just have a job and work in the adhesives industry. You have to really understand what’s happening.
What are your plans after retirement?I’m going to take a very long nap! But seriously, it’s going to be very interesting because I’ve been in this particular industry for 37 years. It’s going to be different not being involved all day, every day. It may be a little tough to completely walk away. I might try to find some way to keep in touch in some kind of capacity.
I think I’m going to enjoy having a little bit more time to myself. I’ve been riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle for the last 10 years, so I hope to be able to take some longer trips on that. I was introduced to fly fishing a number of years ago and never seemed to have enough time to do that. I’m hoping to spend some time standing in a stream somewhere, fishing for trout.
Chemsultants’ website is located at www.chemsultants.com.