Expert Statement: Patrick Barthels, CSO and Hartmut Kunz, CFO, Oqema
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?
Patrick Barthels and Hartmut Kunz: First of all, we enjoy meeting people in person and if we stay calm and keep going, we can manage a lot of uncertainties. Also, the past two years of the pandemic have led to high volatility in volumes and prices. This underlines the importance of flexibility and the increasing need for robust supply chains —now and in the future. For us, expanding partnerships with suppliers and customers, digitalization and decentralization are the key building blocks to be resilient and responsive. Expanding partnerships is a way to strengthen supply chains, decentralization enables us to respond to challenges quickly, appropriately and with local differentiation, and digitalization supports fast and balanced data-driven decisions. Our strong growth over the last 10 years confirms that we are on a good path, and we will continue to drive it forward.
“As distributors, we want to offer our customers
security of supply as well as competitive prices.”
The volatility of raw material availability and the increasing supply disruptions of recent years pose a particular challenge, as we expect them to continue and, as distributors, we want to offer our customers security of supply as well as competitive prices. Security of supply requirements remain a major challenge, as supplier partnerships usually require a single sourcing approach, which contrasts with secure multiple sources.
The most important contribution is the shift to more sustainable products, which we not only want to offer but also actively establish in the market — our goal is to become the market leader in some of these products. We are investing in more sustainable processes, for example, by switching to climate-neutral warehouses (as we have just opened one in Austria), with the aim of reducing our overall carbon footprint. Another important pillar is the circular economy — we have our own recycling plant, which we will continue to expand. True to the motto: we want to do things right or not at all.