Charlotte, N.C. — Collaborating with customers will make the polyurethane industry more successful in the future, Chris Chrisafides, commercial vice president for Dow Chemical Co.'s polyurethanes unit, told delegates at UTECH North America's opening session in Charlotte April 6.
In his keynote speech, Chrisafides highlighted issues from the need for the industry to use social media to reach out to the next generation of industry players and consumers, to how PU could help with societal challenges. He added that “collaboration along the value chain, right down to customers, will allow PU companies to drive growth.”
He explained: “There are some boundaries we can't cross, [such as] when it comes to pricing or getting around competition [issues] but there are plenty of spaces where we can collaborate better, more often and in new ways to benefit customers and society.”
The limiting factor is not the great versatility of polyurethane chemistry, but “how we work together to bring new materials to the market. While the chemical end of the value chain is in it for the innovation and tends to think in terms of assets, the manufacturing and opportunity for growth is in the versatility of the molecule,” he said.
“The real key to growth is not about making more material, it's about selling more material,” he said, and he illustrated the point by looking at different applications from companies such as Huntsman, BASF, Covestro and his own firm, Dow Polyurethanes. He further highlighted how bed-in-a-box companies have collapsed the value chain and are targeting customers directly with online ordering and the home delivery of foam mattresses.
Chrisafides said: “We want to bring our science closer to customers and markets, to technologies that make the difference and will open new doors for polyurethanes to replace existing materials or improve what is already in play.”
Chrisafides estimated that the global polyurethane market is worth $55 billion and is growing at a rate of 1.7 times GDP making it “a great industry to be in,” he said.
“That's why the company I work for and so many others in the value chain are investing, we see it as a growth industry. Our science and the polyol chemistry itself is the great enabler of all of this,” he added.