We love to share stories about the very special relationships that customers build with Lucite International (LI) across our regions. With more than 70 years of working together to deliver promises to customers along the supply chain, it is with great pleasure that we feature one of our longest and most loyal customers, Perspex- en Plasticindustrie A.C. Stout bv. Son of the founder, and now Managing Director, René Stout gave us a brief insight into life at A C Stout over its history.
Post WW2, a great time for entrepreneurial spirits
Mr A C Stout (1907-2002) founded his business just after WW2 in an area of Rotterdam that had been heavily bombed. It was officially registered on 19 September 1945. René explains: “My father was always looking for new inventions. Before the war he used to sell and repair radios; his slogan was quite ambitious – ‘Your radio repaired within one minute’. During the war he focused carefully on repairs only – a rather dangerous hobby at the time! It was also around this time that a very new material called ‘Perspex®’ caught his eye.”
Fascinated by possibilities
René continued: “He paid cash for his first sheet of Perspex® acrylic, which came from the ICI plant at Emmaplein in Rotterdam, and he transported it himself by bicycle to the cellar of his own little factory. He thought it a fascinating material; at that time mostly used in (war) aircraft glazing.” Around 1950 there was a breakthrough in illumination when Tube Lamps (TL) came onto the market. A C Stout combined TL armatures with a casing of Perspex® acrylic and a new product was born.
Success in lighting continues today
René smiles when he looks back at those early manufacturing days. He told us: “The Perspex® acrylic had to be heated up in an oven, which used so much electricity that the main switch of the building used to sizzle if anyone spat on it. Sales of the lamps, which we branded Multilux ML, boomed in the 1960s bringing work to 25 new employees and the radio business was sold. In fact, the enduring popularity of these lamps is such that we are still fabricating and selling them under the same brand name today.”
A real family business
In his own words, René told us that he ‘literally grew up between the sheets of Perspex® just after leaving the sheets of his cradle.’ He joined the company as the youngest employee on the floor in 1974 and set to work as servant/ clerk/basic worker depending on what was needed at any one time. In 1990, together with his younger sister Yvette, he took over the business from his father. However, Mr Stout Senior was still advising and working until his death at the age of 95. Until the age of 91 he was still visiting customers and delivering Perspex® acrylic sheets personally with a small company truck (and he sold a lot). It was, and is still very much a real family company.
Always one to pick up on a trend
In the 80s there was a new craze for being tanned… even in winter. René saw the need for a UV-transmitting material for the developing sunbed market and quite literally had to beg ICI to make a material without a UV-absorber. A special UV-transmitting Perspex® acrylic sheet was formulated and, as René puts it, ‘the party started!’ Stout was also a long term partner of Philips (lighting) and this cooperation resulted in enormous quantities of sheet being bought and processed for the burgeoning sunbed market. In 1989 Stout purchased a laser machine – a real innovation at the time, which meant cutting and polishing by hand became a thing of the past over night.
Expansion and great stories to tell
In 1993 the company needed more space and a new factory was built on two floors. The opening ceremony was a proud moment as a big delegation attended, including the mayor of Rotterdam and representatives from the British Embassy. Stout also expanded its scope to engineering plastics and, in 2000, began exporting Perspex® acrylic to Taiwan and Africa. René picks up the story: “At Stout, we believe that an enterprise should be more than a vehicle to earn money. It also has a social responsibility. In 2001 a gynecologist, Dr Van Hemel, contacted us to ask for Perspex® acrylic covers for his very simple incubators for third world countries. I’m delighted to say that to this day, Stout and LI are still co-sponsoring this long-term project.” René has been chairman of the Hebi Baby Incubator Foundation since 2007. The foundation supplies incubator kits for poor countries. In 2008, Stout purchased a new, 1500m2 warehouse and invested in a new generation lasercutter in 2008 and again in 2012. Last year the range of Perspex® acrylic armatures for outside lighting was extended with LEDs. Stout has several dealers in the Netherlands and is currently looking for opportunities to expand into other countries.
What about the future?
René concludes: “A new generation Stout will be ready in a few years. If you think about it, wood has been in use for more than 50,000 years, metal for more than 2000 years and Perspex® acrylic for less than eight decades. So for Perspex® there will be many more applications to come. In the near future we anticipate a trend of faster, more accurate machining with a better finish. The new LED-technology gives Perspex® acrylic new opportunities. If I could summarise our business, I’d say that Stout combines excellent craftmanship with high quality machinery – we aim for perfection in Perspex® and we’re certainly a family enterprise with a soul.”