One of our focuses in this issue is distributors. PCI recently spoke with Brenntag Specialties’ Lance Kitzelman, Marketing Director, ACES (Adhesives, Coatings, Elastomers and Sealants) Specialties, and Joe Mulvey, ACES Technical Manager, to find out how business is going and what trends they are seeing in the coatings industry.

PCI: What is Brenntag Specialties’ history?

BSI:On September 1, 2007, Brenntag North America transformed its two specialty companies, Mineral and Pigment Solutions (MPSI) and ChemTech Specialties, into a new organization called Brenntag Specialties, Inc. (BSI). This growth strategy enabled Brenntag in North America to leverage the specialty resources that currently existed within the organization, and provided additional long-term value to customers and the manufacturers they represent.

The company focuses on the specialty business, and technical sales representatives work with chemists as well as research and development professionals to identify market needs. This partnership allows customers to see the newest products and technology coming to market, and provides direct input into new product development.

BSI offers products for coatings for architecture, marine, auto and transportation, wood, industrial maintenance, and civil engineering, as well as powder coatings, inks, sealants, adhesives and elastomers. The company has six regional customer service centers, 17 warehouses across the United States and Canada, and technical service, regulatory and analytical laboratories serving more than 10 industries.

PCI: Industry members have indicated that the economy is rebounding and they are seeing business picking up. Are you seeing this as well?

BSI: The first half of 2013 has shown signs that the economy is rebounding in a steady manner. The construction and civil engineering markets are showing positive signs. The aerospace and automotive adhesives and coatings markets have been the steady, consistent drivers to the rebounding economy. We still view the signs as positive, but the economy is not as robust as we would like to see it.

PCI: What is the state of raw material pricing right now?

BSI: Raw material prices are still increasing, but the supply and demand are still slanted to the supply side, keeping raw material costs competitive in most product segments.

PCI: What is the biggest trend you see right now in our industry?

BSI: We see a tremendous interest in waterborne and very-low-VOC (<50 g/L) chemistries, as well as high-solids formulations. There is also work being done to get down to zero VOC, which in some cases is successful. More and more bio-based raw material producers have come online and have opened plants within the last five years.

Green, recyclable and renewable chemistries are being evaluated, however, the first thing a customer is going to ask is, “How does it perform?” Overall, we are not seeing the performance of these types of formulations matching up with traditional, high-VOC technologies. Another big concern is cost. If a greener technology can provide equal performance, the cost is often very high. Comparable price and performance are critical for any formulation changes. The industry is in the infancy stages of this technology, and has a lot of work to do in this area. The research is being done, and we should see a lot of new, better-performing, lower-cost technology in the future.

PCI: How can a distributor’s lab help coatings manufacturers?

BSI: The big coatings manufacturers have tremendous lab staffs, but the smaller companies run very lean technical staffs. They may try to get into a technology that they don’t know a tremendous amount about and need a starting-point formulation. Or they might need consulting services when they run into problems with existing formulations, or when they are trying to develop specific products for specific needs.

Our applications laboratory in North Wales, PA, focuses on ACES industry formulations, while intending to promote new ideas and concepts as customer demands change. This service may help the chemist or formulator accelerate time to market of new products. Our lab is also capable of polymer synthesis to support new product development. In addition to comparative test panels, formulary sheets are available (in print and electronic versions), which place an emphasis on the new (or newer) ingredients that are used in any given formula. It is our intent to produce starting formulas using unique products we represent in the market place.

The lab’s goal is twofold: to assist our customers in bringing new products to market faster in response to rapidly changing customer needs, and to promote unique ingredients from our specialty suppliers. We have established and will continue to develop strategic and exclusive relationships with premier vendors to the ACES market. Formulas created by the lab will showcase multiple suppliers with the aim towards providing a one-stop solution for customers.

In June of this year, we opened a new laboratory in Querétaro, Mexico, to provide extended services for the ACES and Construction industries in Mexico and Central America. The new facility consists of a 150 m² laboratory complex designed to support technical services and R&D efforts. In addition, it will provide technical training to customers and suppliers as well as Brenntag sales representatives.

 Sustainability and the environment played a vital role in the planning and construction of the laboratory. A roof top garden was built above the new laboratory that helps to regulate the temperature of the rooms below while reducing the facility’s carbon footprint. Furthermore, it boasts use of natural light and environment-friendly LED lights that reduce electricity usage. Brenntag is committed to sustainability and this lab will have an important participation leading the efforts and initiative to preserve the environment. N