Sustainable Innovation

Chemetall US

Chemetall

Chemetall is a leading global player in all facets of surface treatment, with a core competence in the chemical treatment of metal surfaces. The team is dedicated to the development and implementation of customized technology and system solutions for surface treatment, allowing the company to deliver far more than a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
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Chemetall products are used for cleaning, corrosion protection, sealing, improving paint adhesion, and facilitating the forming and treatment of metals. Metal is an important substrate in many fields of application, so the company’s high-performance process chemicals can be found across a wide range of industry sectors. Used in everything from automotive to aerospace applications, Chemetall’s globally established product ranges—such as Oxsilan®, Gardobond®, Ardrox® and Naftoseal®—have played a prominent role in shaping metal treatment worldwide.

The company’s roots can be traced all the way back to the 19th century when the business was a part of Metallgesellschaft. Chemetall broke off as a separate entity in 1982 with a global headquarters in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The spinoff company has now grown to boast 2,500 employees, 40 subsidiaries and 21 production sites around the world—including sales offices, service teams, laboratories and warehouses—giving Chemetall a true global presence.

Business in Focus sat down with key members of the Chemetall U.S.’s New Jersey-based team to learn more about the company’s market leading solutions and strategies for success.

Globally active, locally based
Becoming a global presence is a complex accomplishment with many contributing factors—perhaps most notably supplying leading technology—but Senior Director Duane Fudge is quick to give customers the credit. “Chemetall comprises the best of many surface treatment companies operating for over 100 years and continually expanding to new markets and regions of the world. Ultimately, it is our customers that make Chemetall a global leader as they demand to have the best available technology available to them wherever they do business.”

Chemetall partners closely with these customers to deliver the best service possible. “We work with the customers on a weekly basis to help improve their process,” Mr. Fudge shares. Market Manager Dane Armendariz adds, “We have been very successful in helping people upgrade their technology.” For example, Mr. Armendariz helped spearhead educational efforts to ensure that clients stay ahead of the game. “There was a lack of technical information being given to the client so we started to work with the Wire Association to give webinars and technical training at the trade shows so that anyone, customers or non customers, could come in and learn more about what is happening in this industry and where people are going so each one doesn’t have to try and find it out themselves.”

As a global company, Chemetall’s ability to deliver local support is critical. “When a customer has identified best practices for a given operation they know that, [with] Chemetall as their supplier, they can duplicate those practices anywhere in the world they choose using local expertise to support them every step of the way,” says Mr. Fudge.

These experts are drawing on global experience to ensure the best possible service. “As with most matters in industry, experience is key to success. The greater the breadth and width of that experience, the better the advantage to the customer,” Mr. Fudge points out. “And that experience is not just regional or local experience, but international experience.” The company organizes itself into industry units or segments that specialize in customers’ processes, ensuring that every sector receives the localized support it needs. “For instance, our Cold Forming Segment shares wire drawing process best practices globally in order to best serve our customers locally.”

This ‘big picture’ perspective ensures that local customers are not left behind. “I think it gives us a lot of advantages with our clients because they are always interested in what is happening in other parts of the world because they compete [globally],” Mr. Armendariz remarks. “Being able to know globally what is happening, and what products are being developed, and what issues are being faced in Europe that may face us in two years or three years, gives everybody a better picture of what is coming.”

Sustainable innovation
Chemetall’s focus on innovation sets the company’s products apart from the competition. “Dedication to innovation is very important,” says Mr. Fudge. “Some of our competitors’ products have not changed in decades, while Chemetall has developed processes that produce less sludge, operate at lower temperatures, have lower nickel levels, and can completely eliminate zinc and phosphate.”

The company’s ability to produce wire products without the use of any phosphorous or heavy metals is a tremendous breakthrough. “Our Gardo® Hybrid is probably the biggest innovation to hit the wire industry in 100 years,” says Business Manager Jack McAfee. The Gardo® Hybrid is the first ever cold forming process for steel that does not require phosphates. The market leading technology replaces the zinc-phosphate layer with a phosphate-free metal-organic one. This innovative conversion layer provides the same properties and behaviors of a traditional zinc-phosphate, so the product is as reliable as ever.

In addition, Gardo® Hybrid can be easily integrated into existing cold forming operations since it does not require any major modifications to the lubricant, treatment line, or application process. This seamless transition is possible because the tribological system remains unchanged. It is still divided into two parts: the conversion layer that provides the unique surface and the lubricant on top.

With zinc prices skyrocketing in recent months, the Gardo® Hybrid offers significant cost savings. “The price of zinc has been steadily climbing, which is detrimental to Chemetall and also impacts our customers,” Mr. Fudge shares. The new product also removes harmful pollutants from the picture. “When we have zinc in our products our customers end up with zinc in their water, in their effluent, so minimizing or eliminating zinc is a very environmentally friendly [solution].”

This combination of low cost green technology is critical to the market. “Most of our customers are looking for more environmentally friendly processes, but also looking at ways to cut costs,” Mr. Armendariz points out. The Gardo® Hybrid demonstrates that companies can achieve environmentally friendly solutions without sacrificing economy and performance. “Innovation at Chemetall proves that being sustainable and environmentally friendly does not have to include compromise,” Mr. Fudge states. “Our research and development efforts have identified economic means of saving energy and water, reducing waste, minimizing and elimination of heavy metals and phosphate. All of these improve the sustainability and also reduce the operating costs for our customers.”

In another example of budget-conscious green technology, Chemetall is working to cut the amount of water required for its processes. “The cost of water for one Chemetall client is going up 40 percent next year—and they use a lot of water, so this is going to be a huge impact on them,” Mr. Armendariz remarks. “So they are looking for ways to be more conservative [with their water usage].” The Chemetall team partners with customers like these to help them meet their water reduction goals. “We sell chemicals, and the chemicals are used in a process,” Mr. Fudge explains. “By working closely with our customers in optimizing that process, we can find ways to minimize water usage and also ways to reuse or recycle the water again. It is environmentally good, but it is also a very practical cost issue for them.”

The Chemetall team is eager to keep making innovative, environmentally friendly advancements while continuing to expand its market share. “Chemetall’s goal is to be first or second in market share in all of the major markets it serves,” Mr. Fudge summarizes. “We are planning a period of exceptional growth fueled by innovation, acquisitions and organic growth.” Mr. McAfee adds, “I think the company has a great future. We are expanding; we have new management. We have a long-term vision and I see nothing but good things for us in the future.”

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

November 11, 2019, 9:54 PM EST