Distributors adding value to specialities: Interview with Stefan Hagenberg, International Technical Manager, for CASE
The role of the chemicals distributor has grown as chemical suppliers have streamlined their operations and cut costs in recent years.
As speciality chemical suppliers constantly try to improve their efficiency, they are looking to outsource more of their technical services, says Stefan Hagenberg, International Technical Manager for Europe, for the coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomers (CASE) business at Azelis.
“In parallel, more and more distributors, like Azelis, who represent the portfolios of several manufacturing companies, have been enhancing technical capabilities and resources, to provide a full range of services along the lateral value chain for an application,” he says.
“Some 20-30 years ago, chemical distribution in Europe was largely based around commodities but today specialities has proven to be a key growth area,” says Hagenberg. Distributors such as Azelis have invested heavily to change their focus and are enjoying rapid growth.
Whereas distributors were previously recognised as a trader and small volume operator, they have become even more vital for the supply chain, providing valuable resources, knowledge and technical expertise.
Many suppliers appreciate now that offering lab support on the entire lateral value chain of an application is something only a distributor who has access to all speciality ingredients can offer to a customer.
“We have made some significant investments and have grown in this area which enables us to break into new markets and form new partnerships,” says Hagenberg. “We’re not focused on just one product; we have the skills and a lot of experienced staff from different application fields. When questions appear, we know the right people in our company to ask.”
In terms of investment, he points specifically to the increase in its laboratory capacities, with 30 labs and technical centres being established globally since 2005. Among them is its CASE laboratory and Coatings Academy near Cologne, Germany, which hosts training sessions for both internal and external participants to further develop their product knowledge.
Interview conducted by ICIS – A global team of independent expert reporters that cover all the key issues, prices trends and projects driving the world’s chemical markets