The importance of suppliers to the printing ink industry can not be overstated. To honor the efforts of suppliers, the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM) presents the Technical Associate Member (TAM) Service Award annually to outstanding individuals who have played a significant role in the progress of printing ink technology, or have contributed outstanding service to NAPIM and the printing ink industry.
Maurice Carruthers, vice president and general manager of merchant ink division for NAFTA for Sun Chemical Performance Pigments, is the ideal choice on both counts. Mr. Carruthers was honored at the National Printing Ink Research Institute’s (NPIRI) 2009 Technical Conference by NAPIM with the 2009 TAM Service Award. A 40-year veteran of the pigment industry, Mr. Carruthers has excelled on the technical side prior to heading over to sales, and he has long served the ink industry as well as NAPIM and NPIRI.
Even though he was an excellent choice for the award, Mr. Carruthers said he was surprised by the honor.
“I have been in the business a long time, and I was pleasantly surprised,” Mr. Carruthers said. “It’s nice to be recognized by your peers. I’ve probably sold a billion dollars of pigment in this business, and it’s nice to get something for it.”
Joining the Pigment Business
Mr. Carruthers’ road to the pigment industry started back in his native Scotland, where he initially worked alongside his family in its carpentry business. However, that field didn’t quite work out, and Mr. Carruthers looked elsewhere for a profession.
“I worked with my father and brother in Scotlandin their carpentry business,” Mr. Carruthers recalled. “However, I just had two left hands, and didn’t quite have the touch. It would take me three weeks to do what my father and brother could do in a few days. One day, over a couple of beers, my father said to me that I needed another line of work, one that didn’t require using my hands, so I went off and got my education.”
Soon after, Mr. Carruthers joined Ciba-Geigy. His first job in the pigments industry was as a dry color technician working on pthalocyanine, where he had earned the attentionof his superiors, receiving honors as the top lab technician. This earned him a scholarship at the University of Manchester, where he earned a degree in chemistry. He also gained experience in research and production while at Ciba-Geigy.
By 1976, Mr. Carruthers was gaining notice in the industry. Hal Whittemore, the longtime leader of Sun Chemical’s pigment business, interviewed Mr. Carruthers on a trip to the UK, with an eye toward having Mr. Carruthers run Sun Chemical’s new pigment production facility in Muskegon, MI. That opportunity was too much to pass up for Mr. Carruthers.
“Hal Whittemore was an industry icon,” Mr. Carruthers said. When the Muskegon plant opening was delayed, Mr. Carruthers moved to Cincinnati as dispersion manager and later as director of manufacturing. He also made the decision in 1985 to shift to the sales and marketing side of the business, yet keeps very much current with technology.
Along the way, Mr. Carruthers worked with a number of pigment industry leaders, at Sun Chemical as well as competing companies.
Maurice Carruthers, left, with fellow Sun Chemical Performance Pigments colleague Ed Polaski during the 2007 NAPIM Annual Convention.
As one might imagine, there have been many changes in the pigment industry during the past 43 years.
“At one time, there were a lot of independents, but there has been consolidation and competition with China and India,” Mr. Carruthers said. “Twenty years ago, there was Sun Chemical, Ciba, Clariant, BASF and CDR, with small independents like Magruder, EC Pigments and Roma Color and flushed companies like General Press Colors and Modern Printing Colors. Now, Sun Chemical and Flint compete against China and India, and BASF and Clariant produce offshore. We are competing against lower cost products from Asia, and you can’t make profits like you did 15 to 20 years ago. There has also been a lot of consolidation, and a lot of conventional printing has moved to digital. UV is also showing good growth.”
Aside form his recent TAM Service Award, Mr. Carruthers has received a number of major honors for his efforts in the pigment industry. Notably, he is a graduate member of the Royal Institute of Chemistry, and received the Appreciation Award from the Los Angeles Printing Ink Production Club. He also served on the NPIRI Board of Directors.
Outside of business, Mr. Carruthers is a self-described “sports addict,” excelling in golf and enjoying watchingAmerican football, British soccer and horse racing.
Mr. Carruthers’ colleagues are thankful that his carpentry career never got started, and note that the pigment industry has benefitted greatly from hisabilities.
“He’s fantastic,” added Ed Polaski, vice president of sales for the Americas for Sun Chemical Performance Pigments. “I’ve known Maurice since I joined Sun Chemical in 1977. He not only is a great personality, but he’s knowledgeable in all facets of the industry, from technical and chemistry to manufacturing and marketing.”
“I’ve known Maurice for 27 years, since I started with the company,” said Russ Schwartz, vice president, colors technology for Sun Chemical Performance Pigments. “He is certainly well known as charismatic, but he is also a thoughtful technical person. He is well-rounded at everything he does, both as a sales and marketing person as well as a good technologist. He keeps up to date and enjoys the technical side.”