Restek Makes Changes

This year is shaping up to be a big one for Restek. In January, the company, which has provided chromatography columns and accessories since 1985, became 100% employee owned. Restek now runs under an employee stock ownership program. In February, Restek opened its first Asian office in Tokyo, Japan. Due to the change in ownership, the company’s Performance Coatings division was spun off as SilcoTek (see IBO 1/31/09), which Paul Silvis, Restek’s founder, will head. SilcoTek will focus on providing fused silica capillary column technology.

Restek’s ownership model is a natural progression. Before the change in ownership, employees had access to the company’s financial information and, according to Don McCandless, Restek’s head coach and president, were heavily involved in company decisions. “I think that being 100% employee owned gives us the flexibility to try things that others won’t. While the majority of our offering follows the 80/20 rule [80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients], we still try custom chemistries and configurations on a regular basis,” he said.

Restek provides GC, HPLC and UHPLC columns. The environmental and process markets (for example, the petroleum market where columns may be used with corrosive or acidic samples) are the largest customers. Mr. McCandless attributes the company’s success in the environmental market to the fact that it offers stationary phase columns for specific methods, such as those for chlorinated pesticide and organophosphorous pesticide separations. Columns for the environmental market are also customized in other ways, such as optimized run times for volatile organics. Sales of Restek’s Metal GC columns have also been growing. “Whether it’s an MXT capillary column for SimDist [simulated distillation analysis] or a metal-packed column using a bonded stationary phase in a natural gas analyzer, we’re seeing continued expansion of our presence,” said Mr. McCandless. According to him, the company’s wide range of products is attractive to customers. “We’re one of the few companies that can offer not only GC columns, but HPLC columns, SPE products, custom analytical reference materials, as well as method development assistance.”

New products are indicative of how Restek maintains its presence in the market by way of innovation. The company’s recently introduced line of Pinnacle DB 1.9µm UHPLC columns are available in 13 stationary phase selectives, including the biphenyl phase, a stationary phase which works well in drug residue analysis. “Most other UHPLC offerings are C18 or one or two other [phases] at most,” said Mr. McCandless. “Since we manufacture and bond our own silica, we also have the ability to create silica in alternate sizes, for example 2.2µm, so that we can provide UHPLC columns for specific instrument platforms based on their pressure capabilities.”

Mr. McCandless believes that the future of chromatography will be specialization, specifically, phase chemistries tailored to applications. “Sample matrices can get increasingly complex as labs try to optimize their throughput. It would be nice if they could make one injection, on one column, and be able to identify all their analytes of interest,” he explained.

< | >