I recently attended the third LANXESS Pigments Symposium – this year hosted in Las Vegas. LANXESS began this series in 2013 in Shanghai to promote dialog and partnership among participants in the pigment and related industries. In 2013, the event focused on sustainability in pigment production, and in 2015 on the impact of changes in China and their global reach. This year, the symposium was centered on identifying challenges, demonstrating possible approaches and making visible the valuable contributions of all the different stakeholders in the pigment industry. In kicking off the event, Joerg Hellwig, Head of LANXESS Inorganic Pigments, said, “The rate of change is coming faster and faster - in global politics, digitalization and regulations. We have to recognize the challenges and opportunities, talk, seek solutions and better understand each other. We have to participate in this process, develop goals, create joint approaches and show our willingness to do so.”

The theme for this year’s symposium was “Trusted Partnerships for Sustainable Growth.” Topics included a look at the global macroeconomic outlook and changing dynamics of manufacturing, technology trends driven by innovation, the role of chemistry in green building standards, and supply chain management.

Dr. Chad Moutray of the National Association of Manufacturers provided an overview of the outlook and dynamics of U.S. manufacturing, noting that despite relatively flat growth over the past two years, a recent upswing since the election is giving manufacturers a sense of optimism, and that the U.S. continues to be an attractive place for business, especially in chemistry. 

The program featured an interactive short paper session covering each of the key markets for inorganic pigments – construction, plastics, and paints and coatings. In this session, five speakers – Dr. Ryan Dirkx, ARKEMA, Mark Bruner, industry consultant, Stuart Lipskin, BYK USA, Dr. Antonio Blasco, Esmalglass-Itaca Grupo, and Dr. Brij Mohal, Chromaflo Technologies – shared their perspectives and experiences on technology trends driving innovation. 

In a presentation on Green Building Standards, Debra Phillips of the American Chemistry Council spoke about the key role chemistry plays in green building, despite the often contradictory perception of chemicals. She noted how consumer interest in materials is shifting toward health and wellness awareness, which can be a challenge for science and public perception.

This theme of collaboration and partnership to innovate was reiterated by Steve Kooy of SCS Global Services, in his presentation on green building trends. He noted that green building is already widely adopted globally, with expected strong growth in developing countries, driven by client demand, environmental regulations and social triggers. Dr. Daniel Pedersen of Green Seal reinforced the day’s theme in his presentation on engaging the supply chain, emphasizing the importance of sustainability, noting, “To move from a supply chain to a value chain, the key is in the personal relationships along the value chain – engaging all stakeholders in a partnership for sustainable development.”

Discussing his company’s strategic procurement process, Todd Brogan of Oldcastle Architectural emphasized that quality and trust are key factors in the purchasing decision and that sacrificing those things can be costly. “What makes supplier relationships is people,” he concluded.

This diverse group of speakers was able to share insights, ideas, market dynamics and new developments. The clear message throughout the event was the need to develop trust, teamwork and personal relationships within the industry. It was stressed more than once during the symposium that we should redefine the “supply chain” as the “value chain” – recognizing and understanding the worth of each individual contribution and every step of the process.

Many thanks to everyone at LANXESS for organizing a great and insightful event. I’m sure everyone in attendance took away many new ideas and perspectives.