Five minutes at Informex
with Michael Kucharski, president and CEO of VanDeMark Chemicals
PH: What’s new with VanDeMark?
Kucharski: The main thing is the continued integration of the acquisition of Framochem in Hungary into the company and our drive to capitalize on the opportunities that this brings. We continue to build on that and strengthen the team through collaboration between the two sites. We have a particular emphasis with the commercial activity and our face to the market that includes sales and marketing. We’ve added to the team a new VP of Sales & Business Development (Larry Grubb previously with PPG) to head up this initiative and our new coordinated logos and unified web page are setting the stage for the future. We are not a large company, so when we made the acquisition, we all had to participate in finding out where the synergies were, bringing the teams together and taking the combined company to market. There are still a lot of things we want to do in bringing the companies together and collaborating to find best practices in all functional areas of the business. It’s not a process that occurs overnight – everyone was used to doing things one way, independently. Now we have come together as one company and must consider other options. Additionally, we’ve made some strategic investments in manufacturing in Hungary that will strengthen our supply of certain products going into the European market that in the past were only produced at the US site.
PH: What synergies has the acquisition brought to you?
Kucharski: Fundamentally, the synergies that come from doing the same chemistries and supplying into the same markets but with a much broader portfolio of products and capabilities that we can offer as solutions to our customers and partners – closer to being one stop shopping for phosgene chemistry. Now we have to sort out where the best place is to do our work, be it custom or catalogue – looking for the best solution for both the customer and the business. The way the business is organized today, there is generally more custom work in the US and more catalogue in Hungary because of the different natures of the two sites.
PH: How is business?
Kucharski: We have three new products in the pipeline: one in pharma, one in agro and one is in another field, that is going very well and should come onstream in the next 18 months. It always takes time in our industry, with process development, qualification, validation, investments, EHSQ, and all that is required to commercialize a new product – everything takes a lot longer than people would like. Fortunately, our chemistry is not for particular target markets, there is demand across many markets which results in very good diversification for the business overall.
PH: What’s driving the market in pharma for you? Is it mainly driven by projects coming back from India and China?
Kucharski: I would say there is some of that. The level of interest in our phosgene chemistry looks stronger than it was in the past, partly because in India and China there seems to be some consolidation and this is driving the return of some projects to the US and Europe. Quality comes into it too – we are selling into the Chinese and Indian markets on the basis of quality with particular product lines where that is demanded and we have a unique position.
PH: And what else is in the pipeline?
Kucharski: We are continuing to move forward with our strategy to be a leader for our chemistry in the marketplace. One of the benefits that has happened with the acquisition is that we now have two manufacturing platforms on different continents. We are a nice size, not too big or too small and we have the flexibility to do big- and small-scale work, which is a bit unique, so we are getting a lot of interest in partnerships with companies that don’t have the chemistry in their portfolios and need it. Some of the enquiries we are getting are from companies who need diversification and scale: the small guys are too small for them and some of the huge multinationals would be too big, so we have a nice little niche there.
PH: How is this show for you?
Kucharski: Better than last year! The show was dying on the vine and seems to have a bit of new life. I’ll reserve my judgment to the end but the first day has been busy. I’m hopeful the combination will solidify the way the show takes place in the States. The addition of the pharma aspect has brought a new dimension to the show that is good for a business like VanDeMark that services many different markets.