Speaker interview: Mitchell Johnson, PhD, President and CEO, General Plastics Manufacturing Company

Mitch Johnson headshotIn this speaker interview we caught up with Mitchell Johnson, PhD, president and CEO of General Plastics Manufacturing Company. Mitch will take part in the Reducing Material & Equipment Cost while Improving Foam Capabilities Leadership Panel at Foam Expo North America in March 2019. He has a wealth of experience working with plastics chemistry and the development of advanced materials industry, much of which he will share at the conference. 

After completing his doctorate at the University of Utah, Mitch pursued post-doctoral study at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He joined General Plastics in 2008, bringing with him 15 years of experience. After fulfilling numerous key roles within the company, he was promoted to president and CEO in January 2017. The company is manufacturer of high-performance rigid and flexible polyurethane foam products, composite assemblies and finished 

Please tell us about your role as CEO at General Plastics. What are your key focus areas and responsibilities?

My role as CEO of General Plastics is to continually challenge our operators, engineers and chemists to improve our current processes, improve the value of General Plastics’ products and services to our customers and foster the curiosity to identify new areas in which our unique materials and capabilities can solve the tough problems faced by the markets we serve.

What markets do you serve?

Aerospace and defense, automotive, commercial construction, impact mitigation, marine, signage, and general prototyping.

You have more than 25 years of experience in plastics chemistry and the development of advanced materials, so you’ve surely had a chance to see the foam industry advance and expand. What do you consider to be the biggest challenges and opportunities that this industry is currently facing?

Increasing the strength-to-weight ratio of materials at similar cost per pound and developing new flame retardants that are safe and effective, and have minimal impact on mechanical properties. Every industry from aerospace to consumer furniture could benefit.

Your company prides itself on the efforts towards sustainable growth. Are there any environmentally friendly solutions that, in your opinion, really stand out and might influence the foam industry down the line?

Two advancements we have made are the elimination of halogenated flame retardants in all of our new products and we are recovering and recycling about three times as much waste material than we were a couple of years ago, with plans in place to increase that even more.

At next year’s Foam Expo, you will be speaking at the Leadership Panel: Reducing Material & Equipment Cost while Improving Foam Capabilities. Is it possible to improve foam performance while keeping the process cost-effective, or is this goal rather far-fetched?

I believe that when we set aggressive and challenging targets for ourselves, it forces us to look further into the future and think differently about what to invest to solve the problem. I think of the question as more in the line of what can we offer in terms of improved material properties that will provide a greater benefit to the customer, thus offsetting the increase in material or process. 

What are you most looking forward to at Foam Expo North America 2019?

To learn what challenges other manufacturers are facing, plus what benefits other recently developed technologies offer and whether GP can utilize them in our products and processes.

Mitchell Johnson will be speaking on the 'Leadership Panel: Reducing Material & Equipment Cost While Improving Foam Capabilities' session at 10:00am, March 26 2019