March 11, 2020

Gilles Rochas on COVID-19 and Chinaplas

Polymers COVID-19

Interview with the Gilles Rochas, General Manager Performance Chemicals, on the impacts of the epidemic to OQ.

What are the impacts of the epidemic to your company?

OQ is a global organisation and we have employees and customers all over the world including in the more high-risk zones located in China, across Asia, and of course now in Europe too. Safety is our first and foremost priority and we are therefore carefully following the situation to avert risk.

Like many companies we have imposed travel restrictions. We have closely monitored the regulations in each country that we are present in and apply the recommendations in relation to coronavirus prevention such as hand washing and maintaining safe distances. We have placed a concerted effort into utilizing digital technology to enable home-working, wherever possible. This falls under the OQ Business Continuity Plan which we activated when the pandemic became a concern in late January. Our philosophy is “Share, Care, Dare,” with care and the safety that goes with it forming a central pillar to our operations.

Of course, there is a knock-on impact for us in terms of supply chain, and we have less shipment of product currently to markets like China. But at the same time there is lower demand currently, with most manufacturing facilities scaled back or shut down temporarily in China. However, we see this as a short term impact and remain focused on being flexible, agile and adaptable to the changing situation and ensure we can continue to service our customers and make more possible.

We can expect an impact on profitability in the short term. Although OQ is a relatively new name in the industry, this is not the first time that we are dealing with a concern with a global magnitude. Being ready for a crisis such as the coronavirus is part of business life and we need to always be able to adapt and address such situations.

What did your company do and participate in fight the epidemic? What adjustments have been made during this period and after the epidemic?

We have responded quickly and decisively through our Business Continuity Plan and implemented all the necessary measures to ensure uninterrupted business operations. This ranges from safeguarding the health and safety of our employees across all regions, to implementing new approaches to working practices such as reliance on digital technology including video conferencing and the use of cloud-based productivity tools to enable virtual meetings and home working.

We view this as a short term issue and believe that China, as one of our key strategic markets, will return to normality soon. This is why once the coronavirus is no longer a threat, we will be very pleased to participate at Chinaplas.

CHINAPLAS is rescheduled to take place from August 3-6. What is your opinion? What are the impacts of the postponement on the company?

Firstly, Chinaplas took the right decision to postpone the event in April, and we are fully committed to the show in August this year. We see this as a positive step for Chinaplas and the industry given the current situation.

The annual Chinaplas is a vital platform for us to demonstrate and reinforce our commitment to the local market and industry. It is important to be present on the ground. It is a great opportunity to meet and talk with our customers and other stakeholders, as well as the media, in getting our brand profile out there in a positive light.

Although we understand there is a risk that the coronavirus situation may continue for some time, we have full confidence that the organisers will take the right decision to only go ahead when the situation is safe, and not to force the event if there is any lingering risk. We are committed, and ready to adapt as needed to any change of planning.

Will the company consider making adjustments to the CHINAPLAS exhibition plan, such as exhibits, concurrent events participation, press conference, etc.?

We are committed to sticking to the same high standard as always. So we are looking at this as another normal Chinaplas and look forward to seeing our customers to showcase our products and solutions on our exciting booth. CHINAPLAS 2020 will offer a great clearest opportunity for us to meet the market after the recent turbulence; to be close to our customers and to understand their challenges.

With the extended timing, we are busy working on our booth and other marketing plans for the show. We are developing a local Chinese micro site, and expanding our digital presence in China. We want to be there at the show to emphasise our long-term commitment to the China market.

Chinaplas will also offer a great opportunity to share the latest update on our LPIC (Liwa Plastics Industries Complex) start-up progress and the new products that we are bringing to the market.

As industry exhibitions boost sales and marketing, do you think the show CHINAPLAS 2020 will open up new opportunities after the epidemic?

New opportunities will undoubtedly open up at CHINAPLAS that highlight the vital role that plastics play in society today. For example, it’s clear that health and safety will feature strongly. Basic needs like clean water, safer food preservation are part of today’s global mega trends, but come even more under the spotlight in times like these.

This year has demonstrated the need for plastics in society and brings us back to the roots of polymers, and people recognise the role it plays in food preservation for example. In the past few months, China’s food delivery network has provided a lifeline during the outbreak, and PP food containers have helped to bridge that last mile from kitchen to dining tables.

There are direct impacts highlighting the benefits of plastics in safety too. As the epidemic unfolded, we saw plastic solutions play a key role, including the role for the ever present surgical mask, which is made from polypropylene non-woven fabric.

Generally, it has just reaffirmed the positive contribution that plastics and chemicals make across a diverse range of applications. Whether it is about food packaging, water pipes, even the digital tools and IT equipment that we rely on ever more so right now, polymer solutions are ever more in demand and play a key role in well-being.

What do you think about the market and industry trends in the second half of this year?

These are challenging times and it’s clear that it will take some time for the economy to recover in China and the world at large. However, there are undoubtedly opportunities emerging, where some of the clear trends can be addressed.

In China, a growing middle class continues to fuel growth across many sectors including e-commerce and food deliveries. This is driving demand for PE shopping bags and PP food containers. The ongoing development in infrastructure will require access to clean water and sanitation. At the same time, e-mobility, and electric car production will present further needs and opportunities for high performance plastics, where the focus is on lightweighting, efficiency, and safety.

Furthermore, you see plastics being used as a replacement to more traditional materials such as wood, metals and glass, in applications ranging from floor decking, to piping, bottles and more. Furthermore, the drive towards more sustainable solutions will further the demand for downgauging with materials designed for improved recyclability. This presents opportunities for polymers innovation.

In summary, we believe the role and need for polymers will grow and the OQ long-term strategy remains good. This is why we will continue our focus on developing more sustainable solutions and applications.