How did you come into the industry trading bitumen?
I entered the unique community that is the bitumen industry by pure chance. I had failed the first year of a dentistry degree and so wanted to study part time. Lanfina Bitumen (as it was at the time) offered such an opportunity with the role of Junior Chemist, so in 1983 I embarked on a study to finally end up with my Graduate of the Royal Society of Chemistry – Part 2 qualification.
I have since had various Technical roles within the Company including setting up the original Quality Assurance system, becoming HSEQS Manager and more latterly focusing on managing Customer Technical Support, local Research and Development and overseeing Quality Control.
Could you give a brief description of your role at Total as well as what you enjoy the most about it?
My current role is very customer facing; illustrating both the collaborative nature of the supply chain that Total is keen to foster and the merging together of the commercial and technical areas within the Total business. I am charged with the task of initiating and progressing joint projects with the customers, to either enhance understanding of current material performance or indeed striving to develop new materials to meet customers’ or end clients demands.
I am also looking for new opportunities to develop innovative bituminous materials focusing on sustainability, durability and lower temperature working. I liaise with our other European Technical centres in Germany and France to present a harmonized research approach and a united voice within the Industry.
What do you believe to be the greatest challenge facing the bitumen sector within the sub-Saharan region, and how do we start to overcome these challenges?
I do not have a working appreciation of the demands of the Sub Saharan region, but I would imagine the key challenges are focused on the current lack of suitable, good quality infrastructure impacting on the desire to build durable roads that will effectively serve the population for decades to come.
For me, this means the industry has to better understand design to meet the specific local requirements. It also means we have to be innovative in our raw material supplies to deliver technologically advanced materials in a form that makes it suitable for use in remote plants.
Where do you see the greatest opportunity in the industry right now, and how Total is positioned to capture it as a business?
I see one of the main challenges facing us in the near future is the changing face of refining given the varying crude slates from traders, the geo political pressures that continue to impact on crude availability and the deeper cuts associated with coker units and the “super refineries”.
Total is a fully integrated refiner and as such understands the impact on the downstream activities such as bitumen. We are committed to true homologation to ensure product integrity and continued development to extend the durability of our products in service….providing sustainability through durability. We also look to provide flexibility of supply in physical forms more adapted to use in remote areas where infrastructure is more limited.
If you could change one thing in the industry going forward, what would it be?
I would look to further break down the barriers between the specifiers, the designers, the contractors and the manufacturers, in other words, I would like the supply chain to work increasingly together instead of looking after their own interests. Significant steps are already being taken, in some areas to this end, and more true collaborative relationships would enhance the opportunity for well-managed innovation without the constant arguments as to where the risk lies. If we are serious about continued sustainable infrastructure development we must learn from each other and build trust within the supply chain.
What is your proudest work achievement to date in the industry?
I have been very proud of the products we have developed locally for the UK market that are recognised as “best in class”. For example our range of Emulsis materials for surface dressing (chip seal); Styrelf B – a bespoke material for carpet tile manufacturer that reduced working temperatures by 40 to 50°C, yet improved product performance significantly; Altek M a new product for roofing membranes that also reduced working temperatures and improved finished product performance significantly.
However, my proudest achievements have been seeing the development of individual staff that I have had the pleasure of mentoring, who are now contributing significantly to the industry.