COVID-19: Imbalances in chemical industry

The imbalances will take time but one has to change their behaviour and also ways of working to get the desired result

  • By Kumar Swamy | May 21, 2020
Kumar Swamy
Kumar Swamy
Managing Director, F-Intressenter India

The global pandemic COVID-19 is impacting all of us. Regardless of what the treatment is and what the course of actions are, every business has adapted to the current situation in order to protect its employees, the business and its customers. The chemical industry, be it organic or inorganic chemical, is no exception. 
The chemicals have a wide classification be it liquids, gases and solids. Some industries are deemed as critical and have to run its operations irrespective of the situation because If the plant is switched off, it will have a huge impact on other industries. The ones working hard to make it work needs commendable admiration and appreciation for their commitment. 
The COVID-19 shutdown has created huge imbalances in the chemical industries operations in upstream as well as downstream. Today everything is interconnected. To produce fertilizers, sulphuric acid is needed and to produce sulphuric acid, sulphur is needed. Today a significant amount of sulphur is refinery sulphur. For that, solidification equipment is needed. Having parts of the value chain being shut down creates disturbances in the complete value chain. Given the extent of the COVID-19 situation we cannot and will not speculate in when it can be over and back to normal. The only thing that seems to be clear is that it will take time and we will have to change our behaviour and ways of working. 
For example, in the interim period the digital meetings are completely safe. Diagnostics, digitization and analytics are also important factors to mitigate the challenges. The future, with or without fool proof solutions to COVID-19 may not be uncertain or chaotic. This must be seen as a challenge for mankind and it needs to be addressed today to sustain the development over several centuries.
From our perspective we can see an Industry; the continuous cooling process and solidification of chemical melts such as hotmelt, resins, rubber chemicals, fatty alcohols, sulphur asphaltene, waxes and many exotic chemicals used from detergent to nose free chemical used in pharmaceutical, where every product is important for the everyday life of consumers. Hence there is no visible decrease in demand in the end user segments. With that said – no one has got the full picture as we speak. It might take years before we know the full effect of the present situation.
The demand may not grow in the interim but continue to have its present need. 
We are a company headquartered in Sweden with our main production units in Sweden and Germany. We continue to ship from these destinations into India to supply the Indian market i.e. our customers, but the real strength lies in our local footprint. With sales and service for the Indian market based in India we can domestically continue to serve our customers to the largest extent possible whilst adhering to local government rules and recommendations as well as recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO). Our employees are our greatest asset, protecting and keeping them, is essential for us as a company. 
Being present in 30+ countries around the globe means that we, as many others with us, are working with the tools at hand. One of them being temporary layoffs to be able to keep our people and competence. 
The situation we are in is for sure challenging but looking ahead it might also give us some opportunities. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is a suitable quote for these times. We have to try to stay positive and find new paths. And we will, because that is human nature. 
Author: Kumar Swamy, Managing Director, F-Intressenter India Pvt. Ltd.
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and Indian Chemical News does not necessarily subscribe to it. 

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