Interview with Ms Soke Meng CHAN

Face2Face
Ms Soke Meng CHAN
Ms Soke Meng CHAN
Global Head (Marketing)
Fibers Division, Ciba Inc.
Fibers Division, Ciba Inc.

Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Ciba Inc (SWX: CIBN) is a company that offers a wide range of specialty chemicals and knowledge-based services and expertise, providing customers with complete solutions to enhance their businesses in major markets including the Automotive, Packaging, Fibers, Home & Personal Care, Paper and Printing, Construction, Electronics, Water Treatment and Agriculture industries. Application technology, which can be described also as industry specific end-use knowledge is one of Cibas' strengths. It continues to be the mainstay of its knowledge base for fiber makers and the associated fibers industry. The Company’s Fiber division offers additives and colorants for Textile fabric and non woven materials. Ciba also provides well-founded knowledge and advice on the use of its effect additives and colorants, both during processing and in the intended end-use as a textile fabric or non-woven material. Employing more than 13,000 people in 130 countries worldwide, Ciba – a renowned name in chemicals industry, generated sales of CHF 6.5 billion and invested CHF 262 million in R&D in the year 2007. Ms Soke Meng CHAN is Global Head (Marketing) for Fibers Division at Ciba. She joined Ciba in 1997, since then she has held various technical and marketing positions. In 2002, she began to focus on technical marketing for the fiber industry in different regions. Ms Chan had close to 10 years experience in the polymer industry before joining Ciba, dealing with polyolefin and engineering polymers. She holds a Masters degree in Materials Technology. Speaking with Face2Face team, Ms Soke Meng Chan describes current global nonwovens industry; potential markets in it; and core competencies that make Ciba an exemplary in the world of specialty chemicals.

To begin with, we would like to request you, a word on Ciba’s association with the Nonwovens/synthetic fibres industry? What all products it offers and what are their application areas?

For the nonwovens/synthetic fibre industry, Ciba offers Ciba® IRGATEC® CR 76 polymer modifier, which enables high-quality meltblown nonwovens to be produced from spunbond polypropylene using a unique vis-breaking technology. Other products include Ciba® IRGASURF® HL 560 hydrophilicity additive, Ciba® FLAMESTAB® NOR™ 116 halogen-free flame retardant for polyolefins, Ciba® CHIMASSORB® 2020 light and thermal stabilizer, and colorants such as Ciba® CROMOPHTAL® and Ciba® IRGALITE®, which add appeal as well as ensuring immediate identification – an important attribute for medical and hygiene items.

Zooming in the current picture of worldwide nonwovens industry, how do you see it progressing? Is this sector a lucrative one?

Today, a variety of factors are contributing toward increasing the popularity and spread of nonwovens. They include:

- The demand for ever higher quality, greater comfort and convenience - The need to manage energy efficiently - The desire for new properties and higher performance requirements - Growing awareness of health & safety issues - The need to comply with increasingly stringent regulations

All these factors are helping to make the nonwovens market grow in sectors such as hygiene and medical, building and construction, automotive, and filtration.

What core competencies help products from Ciba to stand different amongst others?

Ciba offers a comprehensive package of products to the nonwovens sector, together with services to help the customer achieve the required effects, including functionality and performance (Ciba® IRGATEC® CR 76 polymer modifier), comfort and freshness (Ciba® IRGASURF® HL 560 hydrophilic additive), durability & protection (Ciba® CHIMASSORB® 2020 light and long-term thermal stabilizer), colour & appeal (Ciba® CROMOPHTAL® and Ciba® IRGALITE® pigments), and products that help ensure safety (Ciba® FLAMESTAB® NOR™ 116 halogen-free flame retardant).

In addition to products and services, Ciba offers innovative technologies to help customers excel in the market, for example the new vis-breaking system that allows high-grade meltblown nonwovens to be produced from spunbond polypropylene using Ciba® IRGATEC® CR 76 polymer modifier, and provides technical assistance using a machine specially designed by RAVOtec. The new technology ensures outstanding barrier properties of meltblowns and composites;

– Enhanced performance of nonwoven filter media – Broader bonding window for spunbond nonwovens – User-friendly product form and safety in use

Do these tough textiles (performance fabrics) need special care or Product Life Cycle Management knowledge? If so, does Ciba offer services on this front?

Like all performance textiles, nonwovens require special care and life cycle management. Ciba offers the following services to help ensure the best performance and care.

•Plastics Techline – a telephone hotline that guarantees a response within 48 hours •Research & technical development groups – New products and concepts – Recommendations, supporting data, product-specific data and documentation •State-of-the-art facilities – Access to Ciba’s global plastic processing and testing capabilities in different regions

Ciba has giant network with market reach in over 120 countries worldwide. Amongst these, which all are most promising or say strong markets for your nonwovens business?

Ciba is active in all 3 main regions – Asia, Europe and USA. Europe and USA are the most established regions for nonwovens production. We continue to serve this market with our existing and novel effects mentioned in the answer to question 3 above. We are now increasingly active in Asia and Latin America, where we work with customers to address market needs.

Last year multiple European directives and legislations were replaced with a single regulation- REACH. What is Ciba’s outlook on it and how does Ciba comply with this regulation?

Ciba supports the objectives of REACH to protect human health and the environment from the risks arising from the use of chemicals. Having been actively involved in shaping the regulations for REACH since 1998, we have the expertise and capability to both comply with the regulations and manage the implications of REACH. We work closely with our customers to secure the supply of products and provide sustainable solutions.

How would you comment on the role of R&D division in success of Ciba? Any products to be announced in near future in the interest of Nonwovens/synthetic fibres industry?

Our research focuses on market requirements. As described in the answer to question 2, these include:

- The demand for ever higher quality, greater comfort and convenience - The need to manage energy efficiently - The desire for new properties and higher performance requirements - Growing awareness of health & safety issues - The need to comply with increasingly stringent regulations

We are designing products for various applications in nonwovens. These products are currently still at the development stage.

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Published on: 20/10/2008

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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