Local Production, Lighter Parts a Winning Mix for PlasticsTue, 12/31/2019 - 05:00
Q: How does Radici Group adapt its operations to the automotive industry?
A: Radici Group’s three main business units are chemicals, which produces advanced resins and nylons; fibers, which designs new synthetic fibers and high-performance polymers, focuses on engineering plastics and engages more directly with the automotive sector. Globally, up to 60 percent of our operations are oriented to the automotive industry but this figure increases in some regions. In the US and Mexico, the automotive market represents roughly 70 percent of our sales.
The automotive industry always pushes for innovation and is highly dynamic, which makes it an exciting sector to be part of. It is demanding in terms of quality, service, on-time deliveries, ppm rates and material performance. As a manufacturer of raw materials, Grupo Radici’s main clients are Tier 1 suppliers, such as Robert Bosch, Valeo and Hella, as well as several Tier 2 suppliers.
Q: What is Radici Group’s strategy to offer a competitive portfolio to companies based in Mexico?
A: Our strategy is to supply locally to the markets where we are present whenever possible. The company’s high-performance polymers division has nine compounding plants distributed across Europe, Asia, North America and Brazil to be close to clients. Radici Group acquired a plastics company in Mexico in 2015 that, along with the US plant, enables the company to locally produce and deliver several of the products in its portfolio. By supplying most of our local clients with materials produced in Mexico, we avoid problems and costs related to imports.
Although we have started producing materials locally, Radici Group has to import some products, such as speciality nylons, from abroad. In Mexico, most resin polymers are still imported because there is no company that can produce them locally. Thanks to being a vertically integrated producer of Nylon 6 and Nylon 6.6 polyamides, we can ensure solid product availability in times of shortage.
Q: What opportunities does the lightweight trend create for Radici Group’s engineering plastics offering?
A: This a hot topic for the automotive industry. Radici Group has been engaged in lightweight for a while, which has enabled the company to develop new materials that can replace metal in components and reduce its weight without compromising integrity or performance. We offer plastics with astounding mechanical properties, such as glass-filled polymers that ensure component strength.
With structural simulations prior to designing components, Radici Group’s engineering team demonstrates the advantages of engineering plastics to automotive suppliers that are not familiar with these products. We have collaborated with several Tier 1 and Tier 2 customers to use speciality plastics in traditionally metallic components, such as brackets, support brackets, engine mounts and the battery supports to reduce overall vehicle weight.
Q: What areas of opportunity have Radici Group identified in the Mexican market?
A: As an Italian company, Radici Group is strongly attached to the European market, its carmakers and Tier 1 suppliers. Having previously collaborated with large European automotive suppliers in Europe gives us the advantage to work with them in North America and build the necessary trust in our operations.
The acquisition of a US-based plastics company that had over 200 approvals from GM, Ford and FCA really helped us boost our growth in North America and China since the North American automotive industry is a key target for Chinese raw materials. Our strong presence in the US market is an advantage for our Mexico operations because of the strong ties that Mexico-based companies have with US carmakers.
Q: What role will Radici Group’s materials play in the development of the car of the future?
A: Radici Group sees vehicle electrification as a revolution that will come sooner or later, depending on the support that governments provide for these vehicles. We have focused on developing new materials to address their needs. In China, Radici Group is already working on several projects to develop plastics for EV battery packs. Newer batteries that offer higher autonomy demand the development of new fire-retardant materials, which is one of our specialities. We are also focusing on new products for EV charger components, such as connectors and outlets.