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Unlikely Victory: How General Electric Succeeded in the Chemical Industry

ISBN: 978-0-8169-0819-6
219 pages
September 2000
Unlikely Victory: How General Electric Succeeded in the Chemical Industry (0816908192) cover image
Many companies that stray too far from their core business fail. So how is it that General Electric, a major electrical manufacturing company, ended up as one of the top U.S. chemical producers—with 1998 sales of $6.6 billion? In Unlikely Victory, Jerome T. Coe, a retired 40-year career employee with General Electric, who spent more than 20 years as a manager of the company’s chemical businesses, suggests that it was a combination of necessity, forward-thinking of the engineers, and managers wise enough to give them breathing room. “Much of what they did (then) was counter to the prevailing GE culture,” he writes. “Today, it has become the corporate culture.” The book tells the whole story of this successful business model, from the early years of GE chemistry through the company’s successes with silicones, synthetic diamond, Lexan polycarbonate plastic, and other high-performance thermoplastics. It also profiles four scientists and five managers—including former CEO John F. Welch, Jr., a chemical engineer and a product of the GE plastic business—who made a significant difference in the company’s chemical success. The book is amply illustrated with photographs of the people, products, and plants that contributed to one of America’s most unusual corporate success stories.
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Preface v

Acknowledgments ix

1. What's General Electric Doing in the Chemical Business? 1

2. Early Years of GE Chemistry 1900 - 1948 9
Electrical Insulation; Silicones; GE Forms a Chemical Division

3. GE Silicones: 1940 - 1964 27
Forms Shaky Start to Successful Business

4. Loctite 45
An Invention that Got Away

5. Synthetic Diamond 49
GE Break-Through Caps Two Centuries of Research

6. Lexan Polycarbonate: 1953 - 1968 69
The "Unbreakable" Thermoplastic

7. Noryl Thermoplastic: 1956 - 1968 83
Victory Snatched from Jaws of Defeat

8. GE Engineering Plastics: 1968 - 1987 91
Headlong Growth to World Leadership

9. Growth by Means of a Major Acquisition: 1988 - 1991 113
ABS Plastics Up for Bid; A New Polycarbonate Process

10. Laminates and Insulating Materials 123
GE Core-businesses Decline in Importance

11. GE Silicones: 1965 - 1998 139
Sealants Leadership; Word Participation

12. GE Engineering Plastics: 1992 - 1998 139
After Recession, Growth Resumes

13. People Make the Difference 159
Four Scientist: Eugene G. Rochow, H. Tracy Hill and the GE Diamond Research Team, Daniel W. Fox, Allan S. Hay.
Five Managers: Abraham L. Marshall, Charles E. Reed, John F. Wells, Jr., Glen H. Hiner, Gary L. Rogers

14. Summation 178
How Big an Achievement? How Attained? Nine Strategies

Glossary 195

A. Thermoplastic Polymers, Compounds, and Blends 195

B. Trade-names, Companies, and Chemical Terms 196

C. GE Organization Notes 199

Chapter References 201

Names Index 211

Subject Index 215

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