Dr Vinay Mishra is a new member of the team at CABB’s Jayhawk site. He graduated from Lehigh University with his PhD in Chemical Engineering and completed an Executive Program in Management from MIT's Sloan School of Management.
What inspired you to choose chemical engineering as your course of study?
I've always enjoyed the sciences as I was growing up as a student. My father ran a small chemical distribution business, so that also exposed me to the field, so I became interested in chemical engineering.
You mentioned your father. Has there been one or multiple mentors that has helped you out in this area?
Absolutely. I had the good fortune of benefiting from several mentors, maybe the first one being a business associate of my father's who encouraged me to pursue advanced degrees, which led me to come to Lehigh University in the US. Different people have helped me expand my skills into team management, gain commercial perspectives and learn the importance of lifelong customer relations.
What helped you decide to take the position here at CABB as the technical development manager?
Well this opportunity, as I learned about it, seemed just tailor made for me. Secondly, the people that I now work with, I have known them for several years now as industry colleagues. During my collaborations with these folks, I also gained a high level of regard for CABB as a company. So it was a very easy decision to join.
What are your core responsibilities and main objectives?
My primary objective is to help our customers grow their business by developing new products for challenges they receive from their end customers. A large component of that is to support them in a technical way using a high degree of collaboration. A major area of technical focus for my job is in the area of epoxy and polyimide applications using our dianhydrides. And these applications range from high temperature aerospace composites to powder coatings for electrical components.
Applied technology support is typically a service provided by specialty chemical manufacturers. How do you see this being applied to CABB, a fine chemical custom manufacturer?
Fine chemicals are high purity chemical substances manufactured to stringent specifications. Specialty chemicals, by contrast, provide a feature-benefit for downstream formulations, and these products have historically required technical support. So CABB's products are interesting: on the one hand, we are a fine chemical producer, but then some of our products like our dianhydrides, are very specialized, complex products that provide a similar feature-benefit.
Another trend in the industry is that a lot of the big suppliers, for instance the epoxy resin manufacturers, used to have armies of technical teams to support downstream applications. Many companies have had to cut these services back based on how the market has evolved, but we are stepping ours up.
How do you manage this without a traditional technical service lab?
We partner with our customers. Many times they can generate the best set of data that applies to their own processes, but they're constrained by time and resources. By working closely with our customers in a team environment, we can help design the most efficient test strategies to facilitate solutions. There are some cases where customers don't have the capability and neither do we, so we leverage our relationships with the industry leading consulting labs or university labs to support us. We just want the customer to be the hero and win.
What type of fine chemical products does CABB offer?
An important category for the Jayhawk site is our dianhydrides, like our BTDA, PMDA and ODPA. These products find their use in curing agent applications for epoxies and as building blocks for polyimide synthesis. Then we have our crosslinkers, which are perfect for hybrid polymer systems. Additionally, we are always engaging with customers who seek special products where our portfolio does not directly meet their needs. As we like to say, custom manufacturing is in CABB's DNA.
Dianhydrides like BTDA have been around for decades. How do you keep this technology fresh for new customers?
In the last decade or so, there have been numerous retirements of industry veterans who were expert in all kinds of thermoset applications, and they've been replaced by newcomers, creating a need for us to educate the workforce. Thermoset applications in particular are facing increasing demands in many of their downstream markets. The expanding world of electric cars and autonomous vehicles is one example. 5G wireless networks are another example. All of these developments in the downstream markets are putting high demands on epoxy and polyimide polymers.
How important is the support of channel partners in addressing technical issues at customers?
CABB is very fortunate to have excellent sales channel partners who understand technical points and the ability to communicate them very well. When our sales channel partners capture the details of a customer's demanding project, and they communicate it back to us, that allows us to propose a fitting solution. Conversely, when we launch a new product or publish a data set, they understand it well and can communicate it effectively to our customers.
What is it that you enjoy the most about being a technical development manager?
The best part of my job is to work closely with forward thinking customers and help them solve their technical problems, help them develop new products. A successful customer project is the end goal, not just for the customer but for me as well.
What does one need to do to be successful as a technical development manager?
An obvious point is to stay informed about the latest technical developments in the field that you're operating in. But I'd say a far more important thing that you need to do is to actually earn the customer's trust and respect. A customer needs to be able to share details about their challenges openly with you. Once they have done that, now comes the actual work of working diligently to solve their problems. If we don't have a solution,we admit this quickly to the customer so we don't waste their time, and we direct them to whom we think may be able to help them. Sometimes it may be our competitor. That kind of attitude will bring a trust and respect, and the customer in that case starts to treat you less like a supplier but more as part of their own team. And I believe that is the goal for any vendor-customer relationship, that you want the customer to feel like you are part of their team.
Speaking to the young professionals today working towards entering the industry, what is the career track to a role such as yours?
The first step would be to build a solid technical foundation through education, experience, or whatever combination works for that person. Alongside that, build a set of communication skills so you can discuss complicated technical issues with anyone. That other person doesn't have to have the same level of technical expertise as you. They could have more or less, but you want to communicate clearly. I'll add one last requirement - a sense of curiosity and a desire to continuously learn will go a long way to make this kind of a role a successful career path.
About Dr Vinay Mishra
Vinay joined CABB in July 2019 to lead technical efforts for our dianhydrides and crosslinkers. He began his industrial career in 1996 in R&D and now enjoys technical/commercial hybrid responsibilities. Vinay is passionate about helping customers succeed in their projects and firmly believes that open collaboration is a winning approach
About CABB Group GmbH
CABB Group GmbH is a leading custom manufacturer of starting materials, active ingredients and advanced intermediates; a major producer of high-purity monochloroacetic acid; and a supplier of premium fine chemicals. We are small enough to focus on attentive customer partnerships, yet large enough to master complex chemical synthesis. Customers benefit from CABB’s manufacturing excellence, product quality, security of supply, and collaborative approach to sourcing solutions. Custom manufacturing services are offered from three complementary multi-purpose production sites: Kokkola, Finland; Pratteln,Switzerland; and Galena, Kansas USA ("Jayhawk")."
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