March 25, 2022
SUMMARY: At SI Group, we are committed to delivering the innovative additives solutions our customers need. With this in mind, we’ve driven significant growth in our product lines and have expanded capacities to meet demand for our products.
Our VP, Global Innovation & R&D, Narsi Devanathan, is taking on the challenge of building out SI Group’s capabilities. Leveraging over 30 years’ experience in innovation leadership and portfolio management, Narsi’s role is to help drive our global innovation strategy by partnering with our Strategic Business Unit (SBU) leaders. This will help us create the optimal R&D organization required to support our business strategy, market requirements, and also bring cutting-edge technological solutions to our customers
We sat down with Narsi to discuss our vision for the future as we continue on our trajectory to becoming the global additives powerhouse. Read on to find out more.
How does your previous experience in developing and executing technical vision and strategy inform your current role at SI Group as VP, Global Innovation & R&D?
My experience has taught me that innovation is the key to success in all materials companies. It begins with an R&D vision that is aligned with the company’s vision and strategy, which in turn is aligned with the SBUs. We start with aspirational goals and metrics and defining the focus sub-segments and application areas. We then develop multi-generational technology roadmaps that summarize the key trends, unmet customer needs, and product and technology needs for each sub-segment.
Alongside project prioritization and portfolio management, we utilize project management tools to operationalize the development of new products and applications. We also develop a competency matrix to identify the skill gaps and resources in people and capability. Of course, all this activity is centered in addressing the customer needs and being able to do it efficiently, leading to high project conversion and value creation.
How is SI Group investing in the future to achieve its ambition of being the global additives powerhouse?
The global demand for our additive products continues to grow. To meet the growing demand for existing products, SI Group has made significant investments in its capacities for all regions in 2021 and plans to continue over the next couple of years. For example, in 2021 SI Group announced a 25% capacity expansion in India and the US for its resole resins used in the automotive and adhesive value chain, as well as a $50 million investment in antioxidant capacity across three manufacturing sites in North America. But I am most excited about the commitment the leadership has made to organic growth via innovation in new products and applications.
To achieve our global additives powerhouse ambition, we will be investing in state-of-the art R&D labs that include synthesis, analytical, and application capability to drive differentiated products and solutions for our customers. We expect to have these labs operational in the near future. In addition, we will also add technical resources to address specific skill gaps in the market application segments we wish to grow and make investments in analytical and application capability.
Have you experienced any challenges in the way of achieving this ambition? How are you overcoming them?
For innovation to have the kind of impact we expect, we need a bigger pipeline of innovation projects. Hence, pipeline build is a key competency that market development and R&D teams need to excel in - especially identifying unmet customer needs via customer interviews or technical exchanges. These could lead to differentiated new products and applications. One area in which we are having some success relates to identifying sustainable solutions for our customers – the needs in this case come from monitoring the regulatory landscape.
What are the driving forces behind increased sustainability in the additives market?
The population is becoming ever more mindful of the safety and ethics of the products they buy. In some cases, this means customers are demanding alternative, reduced-risk solutions. We are working to support this shift and deliver reduced-risk products in line with our customers’ needs.
A second but equally important driver is the ability to increase recycle streams via post-industrial and post-consumer recycle resins. Additives play an important role in stabilizing and retaining properties in such mixes.
Finally, customers and consumers are looking for products and solutions that have a lower carbon footprint. While additives typically make-up only a small percentage of the final formulation, customers are increasingly requiring all suppliers to provide life-cycle data and proactive improvements in reducing carbon footprint in the value chain. The focus on non-intentionally added substances is growing as well, especially in Europe. SI Group is leveraging bio-based building blocks and creative synthesis to develop products that lower risk and have improved carbon footprint.
Aside from sustainability, what trends in the additives industry are you most interested in? How is SI Group responding to these trends?
One example would be in the plastics arena. Here, additives add value in three ways – as stabilizers, property modifiers/extenders, and processing aids. Of these, the property modifiers/extenders add the highest value as they address specific application needs in the value chain. For example, ANOX™ 330 antioxidant and ANOX™ 29 antioxidant in HDPE pipes improve hydrolytic resistance and WESTON™ 705 liquid antioxidant lowers gels in film applications and reduced blooming and plate out in polyolefin applications.
In addition, there is a significant need for improving the performance of post- consumer and post-industrial recycle products so they can partially replace virgin material in a range of automotive, consumer, and industrial applications. We have had success in this area and are continuing to invest and bring solutions to our customers.
What activities or innovations at SI Group are you most enthusiastic about?
There are quite a few! For example, we continue to expand the markets and applications for WESTON™ 705 liquid antioxidant in polyolefins, rubber, and beyond. It is exciting to see this innovation project making a major contribution to our business growth. For plastics, we are excited about our ULTRANOX™ LC low color platform for polyolefins and other engineering resins. We are also growing our NDB™ (Non-Dusting Blends) product offerings, which combine multiple additives into one product for our customers with short turnaround times.
In rubber, we are working on patent protected technologies and products to address regulatory issues. In our Industrial Solutions business unit, we have recently launched new CERIFLOW™ 4600 series products for low temperature paraffin inhibition applications and asphaltene stabilization products that help reduce equipment fouling in refinery-based crude oil blending.
Finally, we have launched a sustainability platform based on novel building blocks and chemistry capable of addressing future regulatory needs and are also working on groundbreaking solutions for recycling plastics and elastomers.
What excites you about the future?
I am excited to be part of SI Group in our journey to become the additives powerhouse. Our global footprint and manufacturing excellence are already strengths for the company. Additionally, our commercial organization has added significant capability in market and application development. We have a creative group of chemists and application engineers in R&D and we look forward to adding capability to our global labs in the near future. Together, we have the potential and opportunity to bring value added solutions to our customers and significant impact on the business through innovation.
Would you like to learn more about our innovative additives solutions? Discover our leading brands here: https://siigroup.com/Products/Brands
Narsi Devanathan is the VP, Global Innovation & R&D at SI Group