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Dry Processing Intelligent Processing
Martin Fischer, President Global Sales, LIST AG feels India as a key strategic market for company’s proprietary technologies. During his business trip to India, Fischer talked exclusively to Mittravinda Ranjan and Harshal Y Desai about what LIST AG has to offer to the Indian market to spearhead industrial growth.

LIST AG – the global leader in processing in the concentrated phase has been practicing ‘Process Intensifi cation’ since the time it had not become a buzzword in the industry and the manufacturers were really not looking out for advanced processes. It took almost two decades for Heinz List’s innovative technology to get acceptance from the industries. The foresighted technocrat founded LIST AG in 1966 in Switzerland, which has now grown to become one of the global leaders in solvent free or solvent light processing thus enabling companies to bring signifi cant reductions in CAPEX & OPEX.

How long have you been associated with LIST AG?
My journey with LIST AG started in 2002 in the USA. Prior to assuming this new role and joining the core team in Switzerland, I was heading the company’s operations in the USA as the Managing Director. Meanwhile, Klaus List, the owner & Chairman of the Board stepped down from his position in 2011 and I was offered this role to charter the future course of growth of the company. LIST AG has witnessed sharp increase in growth during the last ten years driven by the increasing demand for sustainable technologies by the manufacturers from the west, and now the Asian region is providing significant positive momentum. We have bagged three major projects - two going to Saudi Arabia and one for installation in Russia recently and are confident that the Asian markets will provide a major impetus to the growth of our organisation.

LIST AG has expanded in the Asian region and set up sales and service centres in Singapore and Japan. How does this fit into the company’s business strategy?
Proximity matters! Our approach is to be closer to our customers, and that is the whole idea behind setting up centres in Japan and Singapore. Japan has been a technology centre for various industries where many projects are conceived and conceptualised; and later executed across the world markets. They have an enormous appetite for new technologies and setting up technology centre made absolute sense since this gave us ample scope to stay close to the market and leverage on our strengths. Our second service centre in Asia is in Singapore, which has been there for two decades and was set up primarily to offer sales services to the Chinese & Korean markets; however, with the increase in demand from this region, we have extended the facility to other Asian markets. We followed the similar approach in American market which has been a great support in consolidating our position in the US. We also have an innovation centre in Switzerland for technology demonstrations to our customers.

How have LIST AG’s technologies evolved over the past four decades and accepted across various industrial applications?
Heinz List, the Founder of LIST AG invented the predecessor of the technology that we offer as Co-Kneader technology, and was granted patent in 1945, while he was working for another Swiss company. His employers allowed him to commercialise the Kneader Technology and encouraged him to develop the technology further. It was in 1966 when he decided to get into entrepreneurship and parted ways with his employers. Later, he went on to develop the advanced solutions for high viscosity processing and now the innovation team at our head office in Switzerland is taking the tradition of innovation forward. Initially, the application of Kneader technology was confined to pharma industry; however, it took nearly two decades for industry to realise the true potential of our proprietary technology in the crystallisation and polymerisation applications. With our patented Kneader technology, we have made many strides and the last ten years have been most rewarding for us - the best period of growth so far in the history of our organisation. Innovation is in the DNA of our organisation and our research team constantly keeps innovating the existing technologies at our Technology Centre in Switzerland, working very closely with the user industry to provide customised solutions.

Are LIST AG’s technologies confined to batch processing only or can these be applied even in continuous processes?
Well! Initially the technologies were meant for batch processing; however, now over 95 per cent of applications are there in continuous processing. Our technologies are implemented globally in many large scale plants and well integrated in the fully automated process plants. These technologies require little or practically no attention towards maintenance. Scalability of our technologies is a major plus point for the technology as it can be applied from small batch processes and with utmost ease integrated into large plant operations.

What are various cutting edge solutions offered by LIST AG globally?
We are focused on processing of chemicals, polymers, rubber, elastomers and fibres. Desolventising or Degassing is one of our fortes and we have proprietary technology for recovering Toluene di-isocyanate (TDI) from the production’s waste streams. TDI is a key ingredient in manufacturing of Polyurethanes (PU) which finds wide array of applications across the automobile and white goods industry. Globally, most of the TDI manufacturing facilities use our process to recover TDI which is extremely hazardous in nature and cannot be disposed in the environment. In India, We have supplied our technology to a well-known Indian company which has set up huge TDI production capacity in Dahej, Gujarat.

LIST AG has some cutting edge solutions for critical applications in high viscosity elastomer processing for temperature sensitive products. There is a strong demand for our elastomer processing technology from the rubber manufacturing sector serving the automobile industry.

Lyocell is one of the latest technologies that we have in offing for cellulose processing to produce natural fibres using wood or alternative feedstock such as bamboo instead of conventional materials like cotton or synthetic fibres.

Further, we offer technology for processing of Superabsorbent Polymers (SAP), which find applications in the personal hygiene products such as diapers and other disposable products for female hygiene globally. We can proudly say that a large percentage of the world market for SAP is made by manufacturers that use LIST technology to produce SAP. So far, we have not supplied this technology in India but there is a good scope for this technology in the country.

Is the Indian market ready for SAP technology?
Well! The technology is currently not in use in India but the market is certainly looking up as there is a wide base of end user segment already existing and the demand is bound to increase. However, one of the main constraints with the technology is that it can be offered only to those with the ability to produce acrylic acid, which is the feedstock to produce SAP. Small scale capacities are definitely not a viable option for this technology. We have received some positive feelers from the Indian market and some of the manufacturers have shown interest but at this point of time we cannot disclose much on this front.

What kind of response do you expect for the cutting edge technologies offered by LIST AG from the Indian market?
Worldwide, our dry processing technology solutions have successfully replaced the conventional wet processing techniques and enabled the processors to increase the top line margins, reduce overall operational cost along with achieve their environmental objectives. Our proprietary technologies in some cases completely eliminate the need of any side streams of solvent extraction or recovery thus making a significant positive impact on the overall cost.

We are already getting some good queries and feedback for our technologies from some of the manufacturers who are expanding or setting up new facilities. Hopefully, five years from now we will have a strong customer base in India.

How do you plan positioning yourself strongly in the Indian market & what would be your growth strategy?
Twenty years back, LIST AG entered the Chinese market and witnessed remarkable growth over there because of the amazing industry response towards our technologies. We are following the same strategy in India and Raghunatha Kulkarni, Managing Director for our Indian operations will drive the growth in the Indian market. We plan to expand our team and also come up with a service centre in the country like we have done in other markets.

Reaching the correct information to the customers is foremost on our priority list and we ensure imparting correct domain knowledge to all our sales personnel through rigorous training sessions. Most of our team comprises of engineers who are very well equipped with the knowledge about our technologies and their industrial applications. Our technologies are low maintenance, sustainable, flexible in terms of scalability and can be integrated with the large scale capacities for continuous operations. Indian manufacturers are looking at filling the technology gaps and are looking out for technology partners. As I have already mentioned, we are getting positive feelers from the Indian market because of the uniqueness offered by our technologies, we are very confident about India as one of the key markets for our technologies.