Interview with Dr Ian Martin, Technical Manager
What is your role at Incorez?
As a technical manager, I am always looking for opportunities to grow our business through furthering our understanding of what our customer’s needs are and developing new products to satisfy those needs. When any member of the Sales team returns from seeing a customer, we assess whether there is an opportunity or need to develop something specific for them. I essentially act as a filter, weighing up the technical merits of a project (i.e. whether we can deliver and have the technical know-how to achieve what a customer wants) against the business value. We have to consider whether the project is too ambitious? Can we provide a cost effective solution? Are there regulatory constraints that we need to consider? We don’t turn a new opportunity anything away first hand, but judge it on its own merits. Ultimately, we want to work on projects that come to fruition for both us and the customer!
What industry sectors do you work in?
We are strong in many areas of the coatings sector, from flooring to graphics. In the area of flooring we are making excellent inroads into that market now thanks to our new high performance water-based epoxy hardener Amirez 148/055. Whilst our Dispurez polyurethane dispersions are going from strength to strength in various thin film coating applications due to the versatility and performance of this chemistry. If a customer comes to us with a problem we first think about our technology and what would be the best approach to solve that problem.
Sometimes this is straightforward and we already have a solution to hand, however, sometimes it requires some lateral thinking and feasibility tests to
make it work. The latter approach is always the more exciting and generally leads to a deeper insight into our technology and new opportunities to grow the business by building strong technical relationships with our customers.
What are the principal challenges in your role?
Balancing immediate business needs and demands with a longer-term strategy to develop new technologies or products to drive business growth. Regulatory challenges are usually the biggest drivers for our business. Reducing VOCs, whilst at the same time achieving the same high-performance can be very difficult as these are normally opposing. We either have to eliminate a solvent
or find a technical workaround to minimise or make it as low hazard as possible. We are always looking for a better, cleaner way of doing things, not just from a production point of view, but also in terms of a creating a cleaner and friendlier end product for the user.
Can you elaborate on the history of Incorez’s technology?
Incorez’s technology has evolved considerably since I started sixteen years ago. I have seen many changes not just in terms of the technology, but also the site itself and the plant which is much bigger than it used to be! Equipment that we have now is more efficient and safer. Our multi-million pound research and development centre has state-of-the-art equipment which means we can develop new products with much more precision and control. Over the years we have gradually built up a deeper understanding of what our products can do and what are their limitations, which helps us to develop ideas and approaches towards the next generation of products, ultimately for the benefit for our
How has sustainability and health/safety impacted your work?
As I have previously said, it is difficult to balance high performance with safety and sustainability in mind. Regulations are gradually restricting the use of substances that have historically been used due to their technical performance because of their environmental or human hazard. This means that we have to be innovative in our approach and be on the lookout for new raw materials that perhaps have not been used in the marketplace before or give us a technical advantage. There is always a certain amount of serendipity in research and development, but also a sheer amount of hard work and dedication needed to make the necessary breakthroughs to create safer and more sustainable products.
Can you provide some insight into how the custom chemistry approach was adopted?
I think that we always took a customer first approach, but only more recently realised how vital a role it has played in the growth of the business overall. True custom chemistry is where you work closely with the customer to create something that is exactly what they need. It’s about providing the customer with technical benefits which they can use in their product which in turn will grow their business. We see it as a win-win approach to business!
Does Incorez offer something that other companies don’t?
We do have a portfolio of products, but a lot of what we sell is not on the current product portfolio. What we offer is the possibility of developing bespoke products for customers which is not generally something that other companies would do. We believe that what might be perfect for one customer might not be for another customer, even in the same industry. It’s about developing something that meets their exact needs as opposed to something that is generically applicable to that market.
What has been the biggest product highlight for you?
There have been many! I like to think all of the technologies we have developed in my time here have been highlights. The Dispurez polyurethane dispersions are in my opinion the technology with the biggest potential. It’s the most versatile of all the chemistries we do and from a chemistry point of view offers the most opportunities in terms of developing new safer, high performance products not just for one market but a whole swathe of markets from construction to automotive to marine.
What has been the biggest change to the way you work?
I like to think we work smarter than we did in the past. It’s a lot more commercially focused and market led than it used to be. We still have the innate scientific curiosity that drives any chemist, but now we always keep in mind how what we do impacts on the business and look for opportunities where we can deliver. One thing that hasn’t changed over the years though is our passion for what we do and putting the customer first!
"I am always looking for opportunities to grow our business through furthering our understanding of what our customer’s needs are and developing new products to satisfy those needs. " Dr Ian Martin, Technical Manager