The demand for high quality additives for concrete is growing. Will the price grow? The head of the “Polyplast” company speaks about this.
The Director General of JSC “Polyplast Novomoskovsk”, Alexander Kovalev, answers questions from our magazine.
— Mr. Kovalev, what’s going on in your segment of the market? How has the crisis influenced the economic performance of your company?
— According to our assessment, in 2015 construction volumes fell by 25—30%. And this fall will directly influence our production volumes. We are working for concrete producers, and they, in their turn, work for the construction industry. So, the chain is interconnected.
However, this year, strange as it may seem, we are expecting a slight rise at the expense of export deliveries growth. About 30% of our product is exported - we deliver it to many regions of the world, from South America to the Middle East. This tendency will develop, as experts are trying to convince us that the internal market has already reached rock bottom.
— The President of the Russian Gypsum Association, Yury Goncharov, has told us more than once that there is no production of construction chemicals and various additives in Russia. That is why our producers have to buy them abroad. Why doesn’t the Russian chemical industry produce them? Do we not have the technologies? Or is it not the time for it?
— What do you mean, speaking of construction chemicals? If these are foam solutions and additives for the production of gypsum plasterboard and slabs, I can say that in 2014 we started on the corresponding equipment and now we produce calcium plasticizing agent both for Russian producers and foreign deliveries.
— And yet, how crucially do we depend on imports as far as chemical additives are concerned?
— 90% of additives used in concrete production are manufactured in Russia. In fact, almost all additives are produced in Russia. With the change of the ruble rate the cost of imported components has grown, which has resulted in concrete cost growth.
To cut a long story short, the interior market demands at the moment may be met by Russian producers.
But there are specific things: for example, concreting in sea water and arctic conditions, the reconstruction of complex historical objects and other exclusive types of work. The share of construction chemicals production is no more than 5% of the total volume of concrete additive production. So, such additives we have to import.
— Why not organize their production here?
— The construction of a plant for their manufacturing would take time and a big financial investment. And though they say that the investment climate in the country is favorable, I do not think that everything is that good.
There is no one ready to invest millions only to get paid back in 10—15 years. Nobody will construct a complex chemical production plant, especially for “Polyplast”. And this is one of the main reasons.
— I see that much has changed at your plant over the 10 years since I was last here. The enterprise has been updated, and new technological lines and equipment have been installed. Was it all done at your own expense or did you get bank credits?
— Sberbank gave us investment credit, some hundred million rubles, and we are grateful for that.
— Restriction for axial loads of trucks were introduced in summer 2015, and now a new tax, known as “Rottenberg’s”, has been intorduced. All this naturally makes construction material transportation expenses greater. Will the company’s products become more expensive?
— Of course, some part of the transportation expenses we have taken upon ourselves. But the domino principle is in operation here: raised prices result in inflation. It’s a closed circle.
— Your company is one of the few which have a powerful science and technology center. What are its targets?
— I think the creation of the center is the main achievement of the company, because intellectual potential is the main driving force. The center is headed by DScTech Anatoly Vovk. The main task of the center’s specialists is to develop new complex additives with the most in-demand qualities for the construction industry.
We shall do our best to increase investments in science, as new developments are the reason for us being among the market leaders.
— Is there counterfeit production in your market segment?
— Of course! It is the simplest thing to stick on the label of a brand-name company. But if a customer’s quality control service works well, the counterfeit will be discovered. Who is busy making counterfeit goods? The producers who do not have modern production facilities, quality control services, good laboratories. That’s why they produce low quality materials.
A customer will notice immediately: if he uses the material it will not show sufficient strength and resistance after seven days, and the customer will make the counterfeit producer take back his bad product.
And next time he will think before choosing a producer. Saving a dozen thousand on one delivery leads to a loss of millions. Money may be refunded, but the same is not true of one’s reputation.
— It is one thing to produce high quality material, but it is even more important to sell it quickly. How do you solve this problem?
— There are technical specialists in our regional offices who can follow the application of an additive on the customer’s projects, solve problems connected with the quality performances of concretes, and advise which additives are best suited to the project.
— Are you planning to increase production volumes in the near future, by introducing new lines in Novomoskovsk, for example, or, say, at your plants in the Urals?
— Of course, we have such plans, but their implementation depends on the state of the economy as a whole. It seems to me that now is not the best time for capital investment and facilities increases.
— How does your company meet ecological requirements, air purity in particular?
— Everything is within the permissible concentration. We have deliberately decreased the buffer zone for stricter control of production ecology.
— And now let me ask you our readers’ questions. Gennady from Moscow asks: where in your company can chemistry specialists work?
— They can work at the laboratory, at the science and technology center or directly at the plant.
— Another question: Sergei from Volgograd is interested in whether technology specialists for the construction chemicals industry are trained at higher educational institutions?
— As a rule, construction universities provide basic knowledge which a person is supposed to enrich via self-education. Our enterprise provides ample opportunity for that.
— And our traditional question: how do you spend your free time, do you have any hobbies?
— My hobby is fishing in wild places. Unfortunately, I do not have much time for that. Besides this, I like playing hockey in our Ice Palace. We have an amateur hockey team at our plant, and we train twice a week.
— Thank you very much for the interview. We wish you and your company success in your business and in your further development in the New Year!