Sea-Land Chemical Company’s 50th Anniversary marked by Trans-Atlantic Footprint (E)

April 14, 2014

Having expanded from its North American base to Europe, Sea-Land Chemical Company is entering its 50th year in business with a global outlook and presence.

Founded in 1964, Sea-Land Chemical Company has a long history of providing specialty chemicals to customers in the lubricants; household institutional and industrial cleaners; and coatings markets. Their approach of providing high quality products and technical expertise that served it so well in The United States, Canada and Mexico has enabled it to establish a strong base in Europe.

In 2011, Sea-Land established Sea-Land Chemical Europe to take advantage of opportunities in the shifting European markets. With 50 years of specialised chemical distribution experience in the lubricants industry, the company has brought in suppliers like Italmatch Chemicals, D.O.G Chemie GmbH and Blackburn Chemicals, Ltd.

“Customers continue to rely on their suppliers for access to hard-to-find products, market knowledge and technical expertise to keep production flowing, manage inventory costs and adapt to changing markets,” said Sea-Land Chemical Company’s president, Joseph Clayton. “This is as true in Europe as it is in North America. We speak the same language as our clients in all regions – lubricants.”

That experience is especially valuable in a European marketplace that has seen seismic shifts since the Great Recession of 2008. Tighter margins, consolidation among chemicals manufacturers and regional shifts in supplies have created a new supplier landscape.

The result has been a polarisation between very large and very specialised distributors. Large distributors have snapped up competitors to protect profit margins and increase their access to supply, while smaller ones have focused their attention on industry specific expertise and value-added distribution services.

“Specialised distributors that offer the inventory management, technical support and market intelligence are in a better position to help their clients take advantage of business opportunities and adapt to changing market conditions,” Clayton said.

So what are the services that customers most require in today’s market? According to Clayton the services that lubricants manufacturers most need in today’s marketplace are supply management, formulation expertise and market awareness.

Supply Management
“Sea-Land Chemical Company has long been recognised as a stocking distributor in the United States,” said Clayton. “We brought this model to Europe when we formed Sea-Land Chemical Europe.”

A stocking distributor, one that maintains a supply of chemicals, can offer competitive advantages that are unavailable with a pass-through only model. This is especially true for customers that do not wish to or have the capacity to carry high levels of inventory, but require materials at relatively short notice.

Also known as just-in-time delivery, a business model where having stock readily available assists companies in managing their raw materials inventory, thus saving money. Expectations for shipments sometimes run two to four weeks, whereas just-in-time allows us to make deliveries in two days when product is in stock. This has been especially relevant in the UK market where a number of raw material and additive suppliers have either ceased manufacturing operations or closed local warehouse facilities over recent years.

Formulation Expertise
As lubricant companies have become more centralised and eliminated technical staff, they have come to rely more on their suppliers for support.

“More than just supplying the right additives, distributors are called on for laboratory support and formulation expertise,” according to Robert Stubbs, business development director at Sea-Land Chemical Europe. “Distributors able to assist customers in developing and testing formulations and who can help adapt products to meet local market requirements will continue to benefit from outsourcing trends.”

Having this local expertise also allows Sea-Land Chemical Europe to develop new business opportunities for their clients by developing new chemistries based on market needs.

An example of this is to be found in the metalworking fluid industry, where the disposal of boric acid and boron-containing additives has come under scrutiny in recent years, particularly in countries that practice soft fruit irrigation.

Wastewater from the manufacturing and use of metalworking fluids can contaminate water supplies and soil. Boron and substances containing boron are then absorbed into the fruit and can accumulate in human tissues. As a result, products containing these chemicals have required labelling related to reproductive toxicity.

“The result is that some customers are looking for alternative corrosion inhibitors and buffering systems,” Stubbs said. “This is a complex replacement process, and our experience in the sourcing, development and formulation of the product technology is particularly beneficial to our clients with their raw material or additive choice.”

Thus, by finding alternative chemistries, Stubbs has been able to generate new business for his suppliers and improved performance for customers by leveraging a growing market for boron alternatives.

Relationships are Key
In a rapidly changing lubricants market, relationships are still an essential component for successful companies. More than just a conduit of product and information, specialised distributors are an essential partner for success. As the industry becomes more consolidated and competitive, so distributors will continue to help customers to be successful.

“Distribution will continue to play a vital role in Europe’s realigned chemical markets,” said Clayton. “As we approach our 50th anniversary as a company, we will continue to work with customers to adapt to the changes in the market and roll with the economic punches.”

Joseph Clayton is president of Sea-Land Chemical Co., a chemical distributor based in Westlake, Ohio, United States.  Sea-Land is a global supplier for the lubricants industry with a focus in the United States and Europe. Clayton can be reached at +1 440-871-7887.