Interview Joan Tortosa, president of the Asociación Española de Comercio Químico (AECQ): "Digitalisation is a heterogeneous process with several disciplines that can be approached separately"

12 December 2020

CHEMICAL NEWS
Joan Tortosa

Born in Maó (Menorca) in 1957, Joan Tortosa joined the BASF Group in 1987, working in the sales department for dyestuffs.

Born in Maó (Menorca) in 1957, Joan Tortosa joined the BASF Group in 1987, working in the sales department for dyestuffs. From 2001 to 2007 he was sales manager for Southern Europe in the dyestuffs and resins market. In 2008, he held the position of European sales manager for the resin and additive business, based in Heerenveen (Netherlands). Since September 2011, he has been Managing Director of BASF's distribution business on the Iberian Peninsula. Since October 2018, he has been interim president of the Spanish Chemical Industry Association.

What are the main characteristics of the industry represented by AECQ and what are the main objectives of the association in the current situation?

Chemical distributors operate in a mature and very competitive market, demanding when it comes to services, but reluctant to absorb the costs thereof. Since the beginning of the financial crisis, the industry has evolved towards export markets overcoming an inertia that made it too dependent on the domestic market.

You have just held your ninth National Congress (November 2019). What were the main topics debated at this event and what were the conclusions reached?

9CNDQ revolved around the impact of digitalisation on the chemical distribution business. In other editions of the congress, we have had presentations explaining the challenges posed by new technologies, but referring to success stories in other types of business. Conclusion was that there are many opportunities for process optimisation, although it does not necessarily change the existing commercial relationship between supplier and customer.

How is the industry dealing with digital transformation? What progress is being made towards this? And what would be the most important obstacles to be overcome in order to progress?

Some companies have already started to make progress, others still see digitalisation as a threat. The key aspect is to recognise that digitalisation is a heterogeneous process that encompasses several disciplines that can be dealt with separately.

How would you describe the current situation of chemical distribution industry in Spain and what are its prospects for the next decade?

The chemical distribution business is growing steadily. It is growing faster than the chemical industry in general, reflecting the need for producers to outsource complexity and the need for customers to receive certain services. This trend has accelerated over the years and is expected to continue.

Are you concerned about the effects of Brexit? Or, on the contrary, do you believe everything will be solved in the best way possible for both parties (EU and UK)?

We are all concerned about the UK's fit in the EU, to a greater or lesser extent. Obviously, for distributors whose main headquarters are in the UK or with regular sales to customers there, Brexit may lead to significant changes and a significant increase in management complexity.

Is the European Union legislating according to the industries' interests? Are the demands of the industry being sufficiently dealt with in Brussels?

The chemical industry always has to fight for public opinion to appreciate its undeniable advantages and not just its disadvantages. The scope of the European Union is no exception, as different currents of opinion come together and the right balances have to be found. Strict legislation affecting chemicals is the right thing to do, but it must ensure a level playing field for European producers within the global market we are part of.

You collaborate with FEIQUE in the Responsible Care initiative. Why is this initiative important and how are you promoting it?

Responsible Care is the programme that attests to the willingness of companies to strictly comply with legislation affecting the chemical industry. Its voluntary nature is a clear sign of the commitment of the companies that adhere to the programme, which is a way to raise public awareness of the strictness of the industry when it comes to preventing bad practices and extreme compliance with the conditions of use of chemicals and their transformation processes. Sustainability and respect for the environment are two unavoidable guides in the embodiment of the chemical business. Within the AECQ, we strongly encourage our associates to join the Responsible Care programme and insist on the importance of being able to use its Logo as a way to improve the industry´s image.

What do you expect from Expoquimia 2020?

Expoquimia is looking into new presentation models. The creation of the Smart Chemistry is proof of that. Its aim is to make the exhibition more dynamic, reinforcing the debate and conferences section in order to attract a greater number of visitors. It is important for it to transcend other markets apart from the domestic market and to bring together the entire chemical industry, avoiding the risk of having too many events with a similar objective.

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