The Changing Role of the Chemical Distributor

August 1, 2010
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In the past, adhesive and sealant manufacturers considered logistical capabilities and geographic proximity to their facility as the primary factors when choosing a raw material and chemical distributor. While fleet size and location are still key to the relationship between chemical distributor and manufacturer, the marketplace is changing and so is the role of the distributor.

Today, chemical distributors recognize that their success is contingent on the success of their customers. Distributors provide technical expertise in application development, excellence in logistics support and outstanding customer service to help manufacturers grow their businesses. Distributors link adhesive and sealant manufacturers with chemical producers’ progressive technologies and products that might not be otherwise accessible to them.

Chemical distributors offer the adhesive and sealant manufacturer a host of advantages. Using a single and global source for raw ingredients provides economies of scale, including greater access to raw materials, broader product lines, alternative sourcing capabilities, one-stop shopping, and the logistical network needed to move product from the far corners of the globe to the customer’s facility.

In the past, a chemical distributor was considered “full service” if it offered blending/repackaging services and safety training. Today’s chemical distributor is a trusted partner in innovation, providing technical expertise, improving production and product use efficiency, and assisting in formulating products.

A Window to the Latest Technologies

The sealant and adhesive manufacturer that chooses to procure its raw materials through today’s chemical distributor (rather than self-sourcing) gains the benefit of the distributor’s partnerships with a host of chemical producers. Traditionally, this has been seen as an advantage when it comes to sourcing, but in today’s market, the true benefit of these partnerships is the access the distributor can provide to the newest product and formulation technologies. A consultative relationship with a chemical distributor can provide access to products and information long before they hit the radar of those competitors that self-source or use conventional distribution.

Recently, Univar’s access to a chemical producer’s laboratory and chemists helped provide a cutting-edge solution to a customer’s process challenge. The manufacturer produced rodent traps and the adhesive formulation required a large inventory of raw materials to be kept in stock. The adhesive had undesirable aesthetic characteristics (milky and translucent), and it masked the customer’s logo on the rodent trap.

Univar’s business development team consulted with two of their producer partners and employed innovative, premium products and techniques to improve the quality of the formulation. The adhesive is now water-white in color, and the customer’s logo can be clearly seen. The cutting-edge products and processes allowed the adhesives manufacturer to differentiate itself from its competition with a superior product while also scaling down the number of raw materials it held in inventory by creating one multi-purpose hot-melt formula. This also helped the customer streamline its process and improve its bottom line.

Monitoring Trends: Sustainability

A leading trend in today’s marketplace is green-customers are demanding environmentally friendly products. End consumers are label readers who are keenly aware of ingredients and are concerned about the sustainability (or lack thereof) of production processes. They use buzzwords like natural, eco-friendly and carbon footprint, and they choose to spend their money on products from manufacturers that demonstrate a similar respect for natural resources.

Today’s chemical distributor partners with adhesive and sealant manufacturers to serve this environmentally conscious consumer, offering the technical expertise to help conserve energy in the production process, along with the formulation expertise and knowledge of the latest product technology to help bring effective and regulatory-compliant products to the marketplace.

For example, a manufacturer of construction adhesives, sealants and coatings came to Univar with a formulation challenge: its solvent-based roofing adhesive formulations were too high in volatile organic compound (VOC) content to sell on the market. Water-based products were also inadequate due to slow evaporation and poor adhesion qualities. Univar’s technical team worked closely with a key producer to offer the adhesives manufacturer new technology polymers and the formulation expertise to bring to market an effective solvent-based roofing adhesive-with all its advantages over water-based products-that is also compliant with VOC regulations.

Using a distributor provides adhesive and sealant manufacturers access to a team of professionals who understand market trends and have the technical expertise to assist with new formulations. These resources are often beyond a small- to mid-sized company’s reach.



For more information, phone (877) 203-0045 or e-mail CASE@univarcorp.com.

Finding a Distributor

Once a manufacturer has decided to start procuring its materials through distribution, a good place to initiate the search for a distributor is the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD). NACD is an international association of distributors and supply chain partners who are committed to product stewardship and responsible distribution in every phase of chemical handling.

NACD holds its members to a specific set of rigorous standards of stewardship in order to protect their chemical distribution customers, the environment and national security. NACD mandates that each member participate in the Responsible Distribution ProcessSM (RDP), the industry’s gold standard for integrity and leadership in product stewardship. As part of the RDP, each NACD member commits to review and excellence in several key areas:
  • Risk management
  • Compliance review and training
  • Carrier selection
  • Handling and storage
  • Job procedures and training
  • Waste management and resource conservation
  • Emergency response and public preparedness
  • Community outreach
  • Product stewardship
  • Internal RDP audits
  • RDP corrective and preventative action
  • RDP document and records control
NACD was also the first chemical trade association to mandate for its members specific measures to protect national security in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Visit the NACD website at www.nacd.com to learn more about its member distributors and programs.

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