19 January 2020

Interaction-Rafael Suchan, VP, Inorganic Pigments Business Unit, Lanxess Asia Pacific

We are growing at a pace faster than the market, and hope to sustain this wonderful growth

LANXESS, set up in 2004, is a leading global specialty chemicals company catering to the development, manufacturing and marketing of plastics, rubber, intermediates and specialty chemicals.  RAFAEL SUCHAN, VP, INORGANIC PIGMENTS BUSINESS UNIT, LANXESS ASIA PACIFIC, offered  PANJAMI VIVEK an understanding of his company’s products and plans to explore opportunities in India.


Tell us about the products offered by your company – sectors, areas of application and scope? Also tell us about your manufacturing units – locations, capacities and investments?

LANXESS is a leading specialty chemicals company with sales of €7.9 billion in 2015 and about 16,700 employees in 29 countries. The company is currently represented at 54 production sites worldwide.

Research and development plays a significant role in increasing our competitiveness and expanding our business through the development of innovative processes and products as well as the ongoing optimization of existing production processes.

As one of LANXESS’ business units, Inorganic Pigments is the world’s largest producer of iron oxide pigments and has production sites and blending facilities on five continents that meet the highest technical and ecological standards. All Bayferrox®, Bayoxide® and Colortherm® pigments offer outstanding quality in all chemical and physical properties, but particularly in tinting strength and color consistency. Their chemical composition ensures that the products are completely weather-stable and lightfast. Now well-known and valued all over the world, they first appeared in Germany, where they have been manufactured since 1926. Today high-quality inorganic color pigments from LANXESS are used by customers worldwide in a range of applications, on roofs, walls and roads, in artificial grass at sporting venues, or in laminate floors and plastic and cosmetic products.

Crucial to the business philosophy of LANXESS Inorganic Pigments is its commitment to sustainability and responsibility in all its dealings with the environment, customers and society. Production processes are resource-friendly and, where emissions cannot be avoided completely, the waste products are cleaned to minimize their environmental impact before being released into the air or water. LANXESS is setting global industrial standards in this area.

The Inorganic Pigments business unit

The IPG business unit is part of LANXESS’s Performance Chemicals segment, which recorded sales of EUR 2.1 billion in fiscal 2015. IPG has sites in Krefeld-Uerdingen, Germany; Porto Feliz, Brazil; Starpointe Burgettstown, United States; Branston, United Kingdom; Vilassar de Mar, Spain; Sydney, Australia; and Shanghai and Ningbo, China. IPG has a global workforce of approximately 2,000 employees, around 800 of whom work in Krefeld-Uerdingen.


How do you expect the market to shape up. Which according to you will emerge as the key growth drivers for your products?

Globally, if we look at the iron oxide pigment business, LANXESS is the largest supplier. In India too, our products are one of the best known brands in the market. We have the world's largest plant in Germany with a capacity of 2,80,000 tonnes per annum, and we have a global production capacity of 3,75,000 tonnes. We continuously strive to improve even the best portfolio – for example by conquering a new color spaces of bright red shades for our customers, worldwide. In Ningbo China, we not only built a new production plant for red pigments, but we also developed a whole new production process for our highly saturated New Red pigments: the Ningbo Process. It stands out due to its improved efficiency for our customers and, at the same time, sets a new benchmark of sustainability on a global scale.

Construction is a continuously growing industry in India. There are several investments being made in this sector both by the private and public sector and a lot of infrastructural development is taking shape, which is expected to increase with impetus from the present government. Moreover, the fast pace of urbanisation will also further trigger growth for infrastructure and housing. This applies globally, including in India where the rate of urbanisation is higher. Consumption levels in the Indian market are lower as compared to developed regions like USA, Europe, or China but is expected to improve drastically over the next 10-15 years. Thus India is certainly one of the fastest growing markets for us and we have a couple of decades of experience and expertise in this market. Given our capabilities and investments in Asia Pacific, we are well positioned to serve this market.


What are the areas of opportunities you are looking to capitalise on, the size of the business prospects for your firm across India?

India is certainly one of the fastest growing markets for us and it’s one of our most important market with special focus to develop. We have a couple of decades of experience and expertise in this market. Globally, if we look at the iron oxide pigment business worldwide, LANXESS is the largest supplier. In India too, our full range of products marketed under the trade names Bayferrox®, Bayoxide® and Colortherm® are the best known brands in Indian market. We have the world's largest plant in Germany with a capacity of 280,000 tons per annum, and we have a global production capacity of 3,75,000 tons which is growing. As an extension of our proven Bayferrox® portfolio, the New Red pigments produced from our newly built plant in Ningbo, China, presents a new generation of iron oxide pigments. The new pigments are based on a completely new production method: the so called ‘Ningbo Process’ offers special advantages in terms of sustainability and pigment quality.


As a company, give us a sense of the emphasis you have placed on R&D and innovation?

With our Bayferrox® color pigments, LANXESS Inorganic Pigments is capable of meeting the high quality standards of its customers. Furthermore, our competence centers are present worldwide and serve as reliable partners, providing comprehensive technical customer support. Sustainability is also a central element of LANXESS’s corporate guidelines.

LANXESS Inorganic Pigments is constantly investing in research and development in order to identify and develop new areas of application for synthetic iron oxide and chromium oxide pigments. The Global Competence Centers collaborate closely with Research, Production and Marketing to take innovations from the concept stage through to market maturity. Our research projects are focused on innovative and highquality products for both existing and new applications, optimizing the quality of current products, further enhancing the efficiency andsustainability of our processes and improving the further processing of our pigments.

In the pigments field, we supply iron oxide granules that are easier to meter and produce less dust than pigment powders when used for the coloration of construction materials; furthermore, we offer innovative yellow pigments which provide our customers decisive advantages for processing because they allow for lower viscosities in paints, coatings and pastes. In our newly built red production plant in Ningbo China, LANXESS Inorganic Pigments is producing red pigments there using a method newly developed by LANXESS, namely the patented “Ningbo process,” which sets new standards in terms of resource conservation and product quality.

Research is also being conducted into applications that go far beyond the pigmentary properties of iron oxides and chromium oxides. This has produced such products as adsorbers for the removal of arsenic from drinking water and iron oxides for the desulfurization of biogas. Developments for medical applications and products for batteries are other focal points of our innovation efforts. We do not rely solely on our own innovative power and expertise, however, we also collaborate with our customers, with universities, institutes and other industrial partners to bring projects to a successful conclusion.


Could you name the key projects with which you have been associated and tell us about the specific benefits accruing to those projects and your clients? Also name few of key clients.

Colored Concrete Works® is a LANXESS initiative for more color in architecture aiming to present the versatility and aesthetic properties of concrete colored with Bayferrox® pigments to an interested professional audience. Colored Concrete Works® is designed as a series of case studies documenting the use of colored concrete in international construction projects. It is accompanied by forums and workshops that provide a platform for architects, construction managers and building companies to exchange ideas and discuss the possibilities of coloring concrete with pigments. Furthermore, Colored Concrete Works® offers architects new possibilities and greater design freedom.

With over 100 different shades they offer a wide possibility for individual colors . The colors range through yellows to reds, greens, and browns all the way to black. Colored Concrete can be easily combined with a variety of other materials to create distinctive appearances leading to functional and aesthetic enhancements.

A very recent example, the Rosenplatz” or “Rose Plaza” in Osnabrück, Germany: The design by architect Oliver Bormann and landscape architect Martin Diekmann succeeds in a variety of ways in breaking and transforming its dominant character as a main urban road. One of the core design elements used by the architects was concrete pavement integrally colored with Bayferrox® color pigments in different shades of pink.

With their design and the use of Bayferrox® 130 and Bayferrox® 160, the architects created a space that is a hybrid of a road and a plaza. Rosenplatz in Osnabrück has been restored to its purpose as a plaza and regained its characteristic colors. Bayferrox® color pigments, with their outstanding light- and weather-stability, ensure that the plaza simultaneously fulfills all the competing demands imposed on a main road.


In terms of scope of work in various projects in India — including design, raw materials, and process — could you tell us of the critical challenges faced?

The construction industry in India is largely unorganised which include small and medium sized enterprises which are geographically spread across different parts of the country. In order to cater to them, there’s a need for very well-entrenched distribution network which can reach out to all of them and make our products available to them. It is also very important to educate them on the possible applications of iron oxide pigments and on the processes to be followed to achieve the right color tones. While our business unit is well represented through an extensive marketing and distribution network in India, we are still working on strengthening it so as to be able to reach the smallest of our customers in the farthest of corners in India.


What are the new products you expect to launch?

LANXESS Inorganic Pigments Group represents a consistent combination of environmental responsibility, efficiency and quality. In line with these objectives, and based on our 90 years of experience, we have once again set a milestone in the production of synthetic iron oxide pigments at our new production facility in Ningbo, China. It is the world’s most modern plant of its kind and another key element in our global production network. Here, the newly developed Ningbo Process is being used for the first time, and highly saturated red iron oxide pigments are being produced here for the global market.

This innovative technology allows unique and high-quality red iron oxide pigments – the so-called New Reds – to be manufactured in an environmentally friendly way. It enables us to offer our worldwide customers an impressivemeasure of security for the future and to lay the foundation for sustainable success.

New Red – a new generation of iron oxide pigments based on a completely new production method. The ‘Ningbo Process’ represents a true leap in innovation and offers special advantages in terms of sustainability and pigment quality. As an extension of our proven Bayferrox® portfolio, we are the only company in the world to cover the full spectrum of yellow-shade reds for high quality paints and coatings with New Red pigments.

And what's more – for the first time, the new process can also produce red pigments in previously unattainable color spaces. The New Red pigments from LANXESS impress with their ecological benefits and technical features in the areas of color development, dispersibility, VOC emissions and viscosity.


Please share a CASE STUDY of one of your client.

Here we would like to bring our case from our region: the winner of our second international architecture prize, Colored Concrete Works Award 2015, Akihisa Hirata and his design of the Alp apartment complex in Akabane-Nishi, Tokyo, Japan, completed in March 2010. A total of 425 cubic meters of colored concrete went into the construction project. The desired charcoal shade was provided by Bayferrox® 4330/3 iron oxide black pigment. The word “environment” describes the relationship between an object and its surroundings, and it is the overarching concept behind Alp.

Akihisa Hirata abstracted this special topography for his design, with the goal of creating a new kind of harmony between the building and its urban environment. To connect the building more closely to the original landscape, the concrete was colored to give it the appearance of charcoal.

“Colored concrete is not simply concrete with colored paint on top,” says Akihisa Hirata. Merely painting the building therefore was not an option for his Alp project. He decided in favor of integral coloration with Bayferrox® color pigments.This process retains the characteristic surface structure and appearance of the concrete, which was Hirata’s objective. Furthermore, different color nuances and shades can be created as desired by varying the amount of pigment added, in this case Bayferrox® 4330/3. A color tone was created specifically for the Alp project that perfectly matches the surroundings and powerfully expresses the potential of the building site. And it will continue to do so for many years, because color pigments are exceptionally lightfast, as well as heat and weather resistant. And what will please current and future residents of the Alp apartments: In addition to all their other practical and aesthetic advantages, Bayferrox® color pigments are also safe and sustainable.


Future outlook.

In the last few years we have a built a strong team here in India with the growing interest in not only our products but also our service. We are not only investing money into production but also in services. In India we are proud to have a very strong team with excellent expertise and know-how which helps us to maintain the leading position. Moreover we have built a very good network which is ably supported by a strong distribution set up. We are growing at a pace faster than the market, and hope to sustain this wonderful growth.

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