Expert Statement: Neville Prior, Group Chairman, Cornelius Group
Prospects for the Chemical Distribution Industry
The chemical distribution business is a diverse industry that provides customized solutions for important sectors such as pharmaceuticals, paints & coatings, agriculture, cosmetics, food & feed, and automotive. At the center of the supply chains of these sectors, distributors are critical partners for global corporations as well as for SMEs. This role has become particularly obvious and relevant during the corona crisis. But distributors also face many challenges in the aftermath of the pandemic and the current political and economic environment.
CHEManager asked executives and industry experts to share their views on the prospects for the chemical distribution sector. We proposed to discuss the following aspects:
- What, in your opinion, are the most important lessons learned after two years of operating in a pandemic environment?
- What will be the most important short- and long-term challenges facing the sector?
- How do chemical distributors support the chemical industry on its path toward carbon neutrality?
Neville Prior: Learning is essential to life and the Covid pandemic taught us several lessons. In what became one of the biggest human experiments in history, we learnt, almost overnight, that we can work in new ways. Office based staff went from the gregarious environment of an office, to working from home, alone. Technology was mobilized swiftly, and we all experienced the frequent delights of video conferencing. Very quickly we adapted to being “on camera”, whilst managers had to work harder to keep productivity up and spirits high. Companies learnt that not all travel was necessary, but that employee mental health was of huge importance. Today companies still grapple with the question of how to keep the company culture in such different circumstances. We will not remain in this splendid isolation, but for sure the world of work has changed forever. I think the other great learning was just how fragile supply chains had become. When China closed down, we all shivered from the cold winds of lack of supply. We must ensure that supply chains are made more rigorous, that sources of supply are made secure for the future, and that as suppliers we take the necessary steps in partnership with principals, suppliers and customers. The world will slowly change, we may see more regional scale manufacturing replacing world-scale plants, and the concept of on-shoring will grow.
Covid has been a wakeup call to how fragile our lives and our luxuries are. There is work to be done!
“Covid has been a wakeup call to how
fragile our lives and our luxuries are.”