‘We became a systems manufacturer when we purchased the Momentive plant,’ said Haoming Zhang, OSIC’s chairman, at PU China. The company’s long-term strategy for the business since the purchase is to become expert in key applications for polyurethane in specific areas.
Zhang added that because the Chinese market for shoe soles represents about 70% of the global total, this segment is particularly interesting to OSIC, but other markets are growing in importance, too. ‘In the next few years, the automotive sectors will have grown more in China, and there will be opportunities for moulded foam,’ he said.
As it stood earlier in the summer, Zhang claimed his company was the number one player for additives for shoe soles in China. ‘For flexible foam, we now [have] a big part of the market,’ he said. ‘We have some influence in the industry. At the same time, we are expanding sales into Africa and south-east Asia.’
The company has sales of about $100m/year, and employs 120 people. Silicones account for about 30% of the business.
Zhang had good words to say about overseas companies operating in the Chinese surfactants market. ‘They invest a lot in the industry, which leads to development,’ he said. ‘They have contributed to the industry’s growth, and have good fundamentals.’ But, he added, there are advantages to being a Chinese company in the Chinese market.
Standing on the shoulders of giants
‘We hope to stand on their shoulders,’ Zhang explained. ‘We have advantages in after-sales service and more contact with the customer. That’s why we can make new products faster. We have better information. Besides, Laader Berg is an international company, and it allows us to see global trends.’
While surfactants are a large part of OSIC’s portfolio, they are not the only string to its bow.
‘Each year we invest 6% of sales in R&D, and we fund fundamental research into different products,’ he said. ‘Our team carries out application research.’
This has led to the company producing a range of amine and metal catalysts based around bismuth. Although Zhang said that bismuth catalysts are only ‘a small part of the business’.
Outside of catalysts and additives, OSIC is expanding locally in China in adhesives, and wants to find a commercial partner for the products it is developing.
The company is building a new line for water-borne adhesives. This will be in operation by the end of the year, with a capacity of 28kT/year. Including office space, it will cover 40,000 m2.
OSIC is paying for the new plant out of reserves, Zhang said. ‘We have other plans, perhaps for a new line in Europe or the US in a few years,’ he added. ‘We are also looking for a joint venture partner. More emphasis on marketing ability is more important than technical ability.’
Zhang added that the company is looking for opportunities in rigid foam to help it break into the lucrative high-volume world of building and construction insulation.