LANXESS to Focus On Waterproof Leather This Year Says Dr Thomas Brackemeyer

Shweta Bhanot Mehrotra

12 Mar 2018

In a telephonic interview with Dr. Thomas Brackemeyer, Head of the Organic Leather Chemicals business line at LANXESS's Leather Chemicals business unit, Shweta Bhanot Mehrotra finds out about company's unique on-site manufacturing model and his take on the leather industry and its processes. Indicating that innovation and sustainable concepts are key to the growth of leather industry worldwide, he highlighted on how LANXESS' leather department is rigorously working towards bringing out chemical solutions that are easy-to-use by its customers across the world and helping them improve their standards and in turn raising the bar of the industry. Excerpts:
Q1.What is your take on the current processes in leather industry, and how innovation and sustainable concepts can be a game changer?
LANXESS basically supplies chemical solutions to the leather industry from beamhouse to finishing - to all segments. The leather department of LANXESS specifically focuses on innovations and sustainability concepts to the industry that our customers around the world including India, require to improve their standards and raise the bar of the industry. This could be achieved through easy-to-use products with a sustainable improvement. To give you an example, the X-Zyme® process encymatic technology is state-of-the-art and LANXESS is one of the leading suppliers of the technology for beamhouse.

Therefore, if it comes down to the first steps of leather processing we do a lot to set new standards for the industry. Of course, we are not the only one, but we put a lot of focus on that. We are the technology partner to the industry and work together to help it grow.
Q2. What is the scope of your business for the leather chemical products in India?
India belongs to one of the largest shoe upper leather producing countries in the world and so one of our focus areas this year are new products for this segment. Particularly, we plan to focus on water-proof leather, wherein we have two new products that are easy to use for tanners to produce all kinds of waterproof leathers –from very firm to very soft. It can be very challenging with existing technologies to get high consistency of waterproof quality for every leather you make. However, with these new LANXESS products, you achieve stable quality, which will be a big benefit for our customers. We are sure it will be a big success for us in India. Other than shoes, automotive, garment and furniture are the main segments that we cater to.
Q3. Can you elaborate on LANXESS' model of a 'unique on-site manufacturing' at tanneries? How it can be applied in countries like India?
This concept is a game changing innovation for the industry. It is a whole new concept for the industry. With this concept, we are not only a chemical supplier anymore, but offer a concept to our customers to produce their own chemicals based on our technology.
With this modular on-site production concept, the tannery takes the technology, efforts and production unit of a chemical supplier in-house and produces- with LANXESS know-how, technology and safety standards -their own re-tanning chemical.Basically, we supply all of this and have a concept arrangement with our customers so they can use their byproducts and convert them for their own operations into re-tanning polymers.

In India, we see a big push for sustainable solutions. The government is working on this with specific programs. We think it is a sustainability question for the entire industry to work on concepts like X-Biomerinsitu. Not only the concept is sustainable, also the product itself as a biopolymer is based on renewal raw materials. The product does not require any packaging, warehousing, etc., hence saves a lot of cost and reduces carbon footprint for the end product, which is the leather.

You might think it is a high technology concept for large tanneries only, and not suitable for small family-owned businesses. But don't forget that in many countries these tanneries are often, and in India in particular, located in designated areas and cooperating already with each other. So you can think of applying this concept also for a cluster of tanneries located close to each other.

We foresee that India will have a need for it in the coming years and many at the International Leather Fair (IILF) here in Chennai are showing interest in the concept and stop by to understand how it works.

At the end, we want to provide a proven technology concept and for that we are currently testing the first unit at our partner tannery - Heller Leder in Germany. So far, the testing stage is going smooth and there are no complaints.
Q4. How do you see the year for LANXESS Leather globally, and in the sub-continent?
Overall, this year will be quite similar to 2017 with a little upside growth. India has all the potential to grow and it all depends on the industry. We believe that if we can succeed in bringing valuable innovations to the market, it will be a big boost for the industry and us.


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