ASC: Filling the gaps in the market

02 May 2014 10:06 Source:ICIS Chemical Business

Long-term objectives highlight key opportunities and challenges that the Council wants to address

The Adhesive and Sealant Council (ASC) is poised to boost market penetration for its members by leveraging education, community knowledge and innovation to drive technology advances and domestic and export sales.

ASC chairman Rusty Thompson says that as a result of a recent membership survey on long-range planning for the Council, “the top three challenges and opportunities were increasing sales and market penetration, staying on top of emerging technologies and innovation, and identifying new business opportunities”.

 

 Innovation is a key part of ASC’s vision moving forward

Copyright: Rex Features

“We feel comfortable that we have a handle on what the industry is feeling about primary issues and the opportunities facing us, and it’s really helped guide discussions internally about what we want to do about those issues on behalf of the industry,” Thompson says.

Thompson, who is also CEO of Evans Adhesive Corp, says that improving sales, market penetration, technology and new opportunities have been identified as the top challenges across the board among member categories, “whether you are a CEO, a sales and marketing professional or a technical person”.

“Usually you’ll have CEOs worried about threats, while sales and marketing employees are focused only on sales, and technical people worried about innovation,” he says.

“But in this case, it was really interesting to note that there was strong alignment about what is important right now for the companies in our space,” Thompson says, adding that this was regardless of the rank or position of those surveyed.

Given that general cohesion about goals, ASC president Matt Croson says the Council’s long-range planning committee spent almost two days discussing how to shape ASC operations to facilitate those objectives.

That two-day skull session produced “four primary, strategic objectives that will guide the Council for the next few years”, Croson says.

“They are education, community knowledge, innovation and industry voice,” Croson says, adding that industry growth also is a primary target.

DEVELOPING STRATEGIES
Those four strategies will be advanced by a wide range of tactics, Thompson says.

“Those objectives will have 17 different supporting tactics that range from developing an education programme that supports industry professionals to achieve a certificate in adhesives and sealants, to substantially increasing the number of market reports we publish,” Thompson says.

“The education effort is a response to the ‘increasing sales/market penetration’ challenge, as we feel that a better-educated workforce will be a key in communicating our industry’s value proposition,” he says.

“The focus on market report publishing will help ensure that members are staying on top of trends and identifying new business opportunities,” he adds.

Croson also notes that growth-oriented objectives make sense given that the industry is continuing to climb up from the downturn following the 2008-2009 Great Recession.

“If we had done this survey in 2008-2009,” Croson says, “I would be willing to bet that cost containment or operational structure would have come up pretty high in the survey, but now our members are looking to grow and innovate to develop a strong future.”

Good growth in the year ahead and beyond looks very likely.

“Our market report indicates that we’ll have 3.6% growth for 2014,” Thompson says. “I would say that the overall market is healthy and with a sense of optimism.”

Not every aspect of the adhesives and sealants industry is necessarily going to see equal growth patterns, however.

“While some of the traditional markets are steady to slow, others are showing tremendous promise, with medical adhesives making gains as well as electronics,” says Croson.

“This is more anecdotal than based on reported data,” he says, “but I just came back from the Adhesion Society annual meeting in San Diego and there were several sessions dedicated to natural adhesion, a strong focus on medical applications as well as electronics.”

“To me,” Croson says, “a group focusing on this type of research is an example of sowing seeds that may pay off in a few years, but it also is an indicator of energy in a particular space.”

REGIONAL GROWTH
In addition to technology sector opportunities, Croson sees a broadening geographic horizon for adhesives and sealants.

“Growth in Asia and South America and Central America are strong opportunities for ASC members,” he says.

To help light the way in those regions, he says: “In the next few weeks we’ll unveil our first-ever Central and South American Market Report, because members asked us for clarity in these important markets.”

He says that the report will highlight the size and scope of the South and Central American markets and include interviews from end-users for their anecdotes on where they feel the growth will come from.

In Asia, “hot-melt is a growing technology in China, as more and more producers are looking to use it for their packaging formats as opposed to other technology types,” says Croson.

SEEKING GUIDANCE
“In fact, ASC hosted a delegation of 30 different China-based adhesives companies recently, with most of them looking for support and guidance on hot-melt as a technology,” he says.

“So I expect to see both Chinese producers as well as ASC members to begin to respond with programmes within all of Asia, with an emphasis on packaging,” Croson says.

To help advance exports potential and other growth options, Thompson says that “ASC will continue to provide value to our membership – after all, that’s why we exist – but we are focusing much more time and attention to innovation and community knowledge sharing”.

“In fact, our vision is to put the word ‘innovation’ right next to adhesives and sealants. And as a board, we’ll be voting on the new vision and mission at the April board meeting,” he says.

“But we know that our focus will include innovation, community knowledge, education and industry communications,” he adds.

“We have spent a lot of time focused on what are the real challenges facing our sector,” he says, “and I think we have a strong plan that will allow us to add new value propositions to the industry and support them at the same time – sort of a win-win for the Council and its member companies.”

In the approach to industry education, Croson says that the ASC will be focusing on creating new short courses supporting testing, alternative materials and green chemistry.

“We’ll also be focused on career education for our members and on the industry supply chain by having a full array of 101-, 201-, 301- and 401-type programmes that support both technical and marketing professionals,” he adds.

“We’ll be working on the actual curriculum for these courses over the next year-and-a-half,” Croson says, “working with our technical committee, engaging an academic specialist and collaborating with [the] industry to create a strong, sustainable programme.”

“In many ways, ASC will be operating in a way that is similar to how a professional society operates as it relates to education.”

The Council also will focus on community knowledge integration.

“With this objective,” Croson says, “ASC will expand its market reports from just two – North America and Asia – to eight, including South and Central America along with PSA in North America, hot-melt, urethanes, waterborne and caulks and sealants.”

The expansion of ASC reports publishing, he says, “will provide our members with cost-effective market analysis for not only the main geographies but also the primary technologies”.

The way forward for ASC also will include an emphasis on innovation, Croson says. He says the ASC EXPO will continue to expand to include a full array of raw materials and equipment suppliers.

But beyond that, he says, this innovation objective is going to include a new programme called the “10 Years Out” forum.

“We want to bring industry leaders together with demographers, futurists and other trend forecasters for a two-day forum that is 100% focused on where things may be in the next 10 years.”

In more near-term efforts, Croson says, “We’re going to discuss growth, how we support [the] industry in terms of growth.

“Working with the board leadership as well as industry CEOs over the next several months, we are going to explore the proper role of ASC as it relates to growth,” he says.

“In the past, this objective has produced things like the ‘Build the Industry’ campaign and the websites www.adhesives.org and www.sealants.org.”

INVESTING IN THE FUTURE
In all, says Croson, ASC will produce 17 new programmes over the next three years.

“But this is an important message,” he adds, “Our long-range plan is not going to happen overnight.”

“Many of the programmes will take a year or two to develop before we launch, and they are investments; investments to make sure that our industry has what it needs to move the entire sector forward,” says Croson.

Not least of the Council’s efforts in the years ahead will be advocacy, with a focus on both federal policies and legislation along with a grassroots campaign.

“Most of our advocacy efforts will continue to be focused on the regulatory agencies,” says Thompson, “including the EPA and ­California.”

But with legislation developing to replace the 38-year-old Toxic ­Substances Control Act (TSCA), Thompson says that the ASC will have a priority focus on bills now working their way through the Senate and House. “From a grass roots level,” he says, “we’ll focus on ­connecting our membership to the right ­influencers and legislators when it is appropriate.”

ADVOCACY FLY-IN
Croson says the ASC will continue to support its advocacy programme under Industry Voice, but also build on that programme.

“We are going to continue to expand the programmes and services we have traditionally offered within the regulatory space by adding a legislative Fly-In to our program mix and by developing a ‘Who We Are, What We Do’ toolkit that can be used by members to share with regulatory agencies, legislators and other groups,” he adds.

The Fly-In will be launched in June this year as a pilot programme, part of the broader Fly-In sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

Thompson noted that in 2013 ASC invested in an Action Center, a software programme that distributes draft letters to members that they, in turn, can use to respond directly to legislators and policymakers on both the national and local levels.

“We will continue to support this type of activity because it will strengthen our role as an industry voice,” Thompson adds.

“It’s an exciting time to be an ASC member,” Thompson says. “We’re doing so many good things for so many different parts of our business.

“And with our emphasis on education,” Thompson adds, “we believe we can draw even more members into the Council, people who want to assist in making sure the industry has the information and knowledge it needs to be as effective as possible.”

By Joe Kamalick