InterviewNew ways of chemical manufacturing will be vital - VIDEO

28 February 2012 18:01  [Source: ICIS news]

By Will Beacham

LONDON (ICIS)--Long-term macroeconomic trends mean that new approaches to manufacturing will be needed for successful chemical producers across the globe, a leading chemical consultant said on Tuesday.

As the population in the west ages, youth unemployment rises and disposable incomes increase in emerging economies, consumers will no longer be interested in buying wasteful “throw-away” products which are unsustainable not only financially but also in terms of resource use, according to London-based International eChem chairman Paul Hodges.

In an ICIS interview, Hodges said that the chemical industry has lost its way since companies like US group DuPont, the UK’s ICI and US group General Electric started taking the 'Quality Circle' approach to manufacturing, which focused on building quality into the production process.

Chapter Nine of the free ICIS/International eChem New Normal ebook explains how this approach to manufacturing excellence was curtailed by the need to compete with China as it transformed into a manufacturing superpower.

Hodges said: “In some ways we need to go back to basics. You don’t just want to measure quality at the end but to design quality.

“There was a realisation that accidents don’t just happen. If you get safety and employee welfare right as well as product quality right, then everything else flows on from there. But we’ve lost our way in the last 10 years. Look at the increasing number of forces majeures we’re experiencing now.” 

Apart from a renewed focus on the manufacturing of good quality products, the chemical industry would also benefit from techniques such as process intensification, he said.

Moving to smaller scale continuous processing rather than large batch manufacturing will offer lots of advantages to chemical manufacturers, Hodges said.

“In the past you’d build a 36-tonne reactor which would fill a building, which is inefficient. The quality – even in the best run companies – is variable because you’re mixing things which don’t necessarily all mix together over a 10-12 hour period.

“You can reduce the time it takes, the size of the equipment required, the amount of energy you require and eliminate almost all of the waste so the capital and operating costs go down plus you get a much better quality end product.”

Click here to download the latest chapter of “Boom, gloom and the new normal: how Western baby boomers are changing global chemical demand patterns, again”

By: Will Beacham
+44 20 8652 3214

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