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The Rupp Report: Meet The Needs Of Your Customer

Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

The Rupp Report had the chance to talk to Paul Hulme, president of Huntsman Textile Effects, Singapore. In a short period of time, Huntsman Textile Effects has become one of the global players in textile dyestuffs and chemistry. Huntsman today has more than 11,000 employees and operates from multiple locations worldwide. The company had 2009 revenues of approximately $8 billion.

Paul Hulme, an Englishman, is a chartered accountant with a business studies degree from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. Prior to leading Huntsman Textile Effects, he was president of Materials & Effects. Paul Hulme is a dedicated golfer and squash player. He and his wife, Julie, have two daughters.

Growing Markets
The current market situation as seen by Hulme is that globally, the textiles market continues to grow, which makes it a very interesting and exciting market for Huntsman. "Clearly, this growth is driven from Asia, so since acquiring the Textile Effects business, we have worked hard to adapt our structure in order to serve our markets and our customers better," he said. "Of course, the financial crisis affected demand in all markets, but there are clear signs that demand is increasing again. Even before the crisis, there was ongoing consolidation within the dye and chemical supply base. Large competitors struggled or even went bankrupt. We have taken some tough measures to bring our business to where it is today, and now we are ready to take on the opportunities the market presents."


Get Out Of The Crisis
"As a supplier to many key markets, all divisions of Huntsman Corp. were affected by the crisis," Hulme continued. "However, thanks to a strong balance sheet and adjusting quickly to the market, we are now emerging stronger than before. As an integral part of the corporation, Textile Effects plays its part in making Huntsman a successful corporation. The textiles market is very interesting for us due to the growth rate expected in the coming years. Our strategic business units of Apparel and Home Textiles (AHT) and Specialty Textiles (ST) are aligned to our selected markets to respond to challenges arising from the ongoing market development."

He went on to say: "As we have a global manufacturing footprint, our aim is to utilize our strengths to meet customer needs and better serve our selected markets. Sophisticated synthesized products are generally made in one location in order to optimize processing and guarantee quality and, of course, safety standards. Less complex products may then be made in multiple locations to be capable of increased flexibility but still to the same global standards of quality and safety."

Information Exchange

"Listening to the customer's needs is central to our strategy, and drives not only the supply and distribution activities, but, possibly more importantly, our innovation focus," Hulme said. "Our aim is to be quick, flexible and responsive to the dynamic market that our customers are facing, which should form the basis for a long-lasting business relationship. Leaving the economic turmoil of the past 18 months, being close to our customers is more important than ever before. Globally, we have already conducted customer events in our key markets this year to inform them about our innovations and, of course, listen to their concerns."

Research And Development
According to Hulme, innovation is a strong tradition of the Textile Effects business and is a key element in Huntsman's strategy. The company holds approximately 1,100 patents and introduced more than 30 new products to the market last year. This year, Hulme said, Huntsman will exceed that number.

"The key priority is focusing on what the market needs whilst anticipating future trends," he said. "For example, there is a huge focus in the textile industry today on sustainability in terms of reducing environmental impact. We are very well-placed to meet this requirement, but, of course, the work started some years ago, and our research and technology teams are already working on the next generation of products to meet tomorrow's needs."

New Products In The Pipeline
This year, Huntsman will launch more than 30 new products. Hulme says the focus in 2010 is to help the textile industry meet the increasing demand for products and processes with lower environmental impact. "We have some developments particularly in the areas of stain management to keep apparel cleaner for longer and reduce the need for laundering and reactive dyes for cotton to help reduce the amount of water and energy during processing," he explained.

Market Position
Asked abut Huntsman Textile Effects' position in the markets, Hulme said: "We are well-placed to take advantage of the current focus on sustainability, and we have some very exciting developments over the coming months that will allow a quantum leap in processing of cotton. We are pleased with our achievements, but, of course, have clear targets [regarding] how we want to grow our business. Our customers expect innovative solutions to the market demands. To deliver these, we need to have the capability to develop the required products and processes. As mentioned above, we have around 1,100 patents and launch many new products each year. However, we go further by supporting our customers within their own operations to optimize the ways in which our products are used, which we do via our regional technical resource teams."

 "It is clear that the world's focus is very heavily on environmental matters, which is definitely a big change from 10 years ago," Hulme said. "This helps a company like Huntsman, as many of our investments in technology over recent years have been geared towards delivering sustainable products and processes. Some trends will clearly continue, such as the growth in manufacturing in Asia and the focus on sustainability. Pressure will remain on costs, and lead times will continue to shorten, meaning the success of supply chain systems will be critical. There is likely to be ongoing consolidation and more cooperation and even joint ventures with people sharing technologies across different end markets."

Hulme is convinced that the image of Huntsman in the textile world is very positive. "I believe that partners and customers can trust in Huntsman as their sustainable partner in our selected markets," he explained. "The feedback from our customers is positive when it comes to innovation, quality and technical service. We will continue to strengthen these areas whilst also working on areas where we need to improve. We are pleased with our achievements, but we have to constantly review our position and adjust to the needs of the markets."

To keep its market position, Hulme says it is essential for Huntsman to "keep innovating to meet the needs of our customers."

August 10, 2010