TiO2 World Summit 2015: “Suppliers listen but they don’t hear”

By James Sean Dickson
Published: Thursday, 08 October 2015

While regular suppliers tend to merely meet demand, the best providers of pigment material will always work with their supply chain to ensure innovations occur and markets are correctly understood, delegates attending the TiO2 World Summit in Prague, Czech Republic, were told.

Delegates attending the TiO2 World Summit 2015 conference in Prague, Czech Republic, were told today how there is a strong distinction between regular and strategic suppliers for titanium dioxide (TiO2) consuming companies.

Gary Miller, executive vice president of global supply chains and chief products officer for A Shulman Inc., a performance plastics and resins business, said that while regular suppliers of TiO2 and other additives will provide material and take some interest in basic, externally-led product development, his company prefers so-called "strategic suppliers", who take a much more active interest in the development of products and markets.

These suppliers focus on continuous product and material improvement; participate with the pigment consumer and eventual end users; are consistent and flexible; and understand the business consuming their products, rather than simply being aware of it as a customer.

TiO2 2015 - Miller
G. Miller of A Schulman: "Strategic suppliers focus on what we need".
"Instead of only wanting to visit our facilities, they want the reverse. They focus on what we need," Miller explained. "It’s important for suppliers to know what we do and have knowledge of our company. They understand where they can add value. Regular suppliers listen, but they don’t hear."

Miller said that while regular suppliers of pigment material want the business of A Shulman, only strategic suppliers want to actively grow together, provide market intelligence and collaborate on sales growth and innovation.

He introduced the concept of a "glocal" provider: a supplier that operates globally, but understands and meets the challenges and requirements of local markets.

Strategic suppliers will also be continuous innovators, with no end in sight, Miller said. "Performance coatings and plastics are in a race with no finish line."

Jean-Marie Greindl, vice president of EMEA automotive coatings at coatings and pigments supplier PPG Inc., said that innovation was being driven by the European Union (EU) as much as by customer requirements.

"The EU is constantly imposing rules on colours that can be used in products," Greindl said. "The speed at which we have to adapt is quite fast, but we see it as a huge opportunity. We need improvements in process control and test method capability to drive pigment quality."

Griendl also spoke of the importance of proactive suppliers: "On a longer time period I would expect every supplier to come with innovations to improve the appearance and performance of the products we supply to customers, who are constantly demanding new ideas."

Customers are seeking supply security too, he explained. "Customers come to us and ask for proof of multiple supply sources. Redundancy is as important as capacity."

TiO2 2015 - Greindl
PPG's Greindl: EU drives innovation as much as consumers.
While PPG is a major consumer of TiO2, the share of the pigment material in its products has fallen by several percent over the past few years, Greindl said, adding that these reductions are significant year-on-year.

There all the time

Referencing strong demand destruction that occurred in the high prices years of 2010-2012, Miller advocated a constant market presence.

"Some of that demand has come back as the prices have decreased and availability has improved. For some it has not returned and we don’t think that’s healthy in the market place."

"It can’t be an on and off situation, we have to be there all the time. And if we talk about being there all the time – quality, quality, quality. Consistency is a very big element of what is required," Miller said.

He recommended the development of better dispersing, stronger and purer pigments.

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