Andreas Feichtinger, Head of Marketing and Sales Organisation at Plansee SE, talks to AZoM.com about conflict minerals and the importance of having a sustainable supply chain.
Could you please provide a brief introduction to the industry that Plansee works within and outline the key drivers?
Plansee is a full-fledged manufacturer of refractory metals like molybdenum, tungsten, tantalum, niobium, and other alloys. We are working within a very wide range of industries such as aerospace, automotive, electronics, medical, and lighting.
In recent times, the media have reported on the issues surrounding conflict minerals. Could you please explain what a conflict mineral is?
The most commonly used definition of conflict minerals comes from the US federal law. Conflict minerals are tungsten, tantalum, tin, and gold. The purpose of the US federal law was to prevent funding of ongoing armed conflicts and human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and their adjoining countries. The most important metals for us, in that case, are tantalum and tungsten.
Could you briefly explain Plansee’s position on conflict minerals?
Sustainability is a very important part of all our operations and it also forms a large part of our corporate values. It’s also part of our purchasing policy. The requirement for socially and technologically responsible procurement is set in these policies. So we only choose suppliers that meet a very strict procurement guideline.
Are your customers sensitive about conflict minerals and are there any certifications Plansee can obtain to address this?
Yes, they are very sensitive. They really have an eye on this procedure, and conflict minerals deeply impact their global supply chain. One example is tantalum capacitors, which are used in consumer electronics. We supply to a number of tantalum capacitor producers therefore it’s imperative that our customers can trust the sources we use.
We also provide tungsten components for the ion implantation industry - the technology which is used in the semiconductor industry to produce computer chips.
It's a very important topic for companies to have a sustainable supply chain which is why we only use raw materials from ethically unimpeachable sources. Our conflict-free tantalum procurement for example is attested by our EICC/GeSI certification. This certification covers all the preproduction areas involved in materials manufacture.
How do you gain these certifications?
Here we talk about the very strict audit with many different criteria you have to fulfil. To achieve this certification it’s important that you make your supply chain transparent. All of our suppliers have to be conflict-free in their respective supply chains.
What about tungsten, one of your main materials?
Of course, also our tungsten procurement is subject to the strict guidelines defined in our supplier policy. As well as our procurement of gold. But let’s go back to tungsten:
Sustainability is a fixed purchasing policy commitment throughout the Plansee Group. Our main tungsten supplier is Global Tungsten & Powders (GTP) – also a division of the Plansee Group, like we are. GTP as well as our other tungsten suppliers are members of the Tungsten Industry – Conflict Minerals Council, a working group established to develop a compliance framework specifically for tungsten.
And the fact that GTP only purchases tungsten raw materials from reliable and responsible sources and adheres to stringent procurement guidelines when selecting its suppliers has been officially confirmed by an EICC/GeSI certification.
How has Plansee’s approach to conflict minerals benefited your customers?
I would say our approach to conflict minerals and our CFSI certification makes life easier for our customers and overall more transparent. It's also makes it easier for them to certify their own supply chain.
As I said at the beginning, we are a full-fledged manufacturer. That means from the early stage of producing our materials to the finished product, the whole process remains in-house. We strictly control the entire production chain. It makes it easier, more efficient, and more transparent for our customer to work with us as they're only dealing with one company.
Are there any recent case studies that you are particularly proud of?
Yes. As you know, one of our sister divisions, GTP, is one of the main producers of tungsten powders. They were one of the main drivers of establishing the TI-CMC association, the Tungsten Industry Conflict Mineral Council. They have also worked hard in the last few years to join the EICC/CFSI together with this association from the tungsten industry. In addition GTP was the first company worldwide, which was certified through the EICC/CSFI association.
Have you got any plans for expansion within the areas you currently supply to?
We are a global player. Our business is already global. What really changes is the application fields of our materials. Our products and materials are important for many new technologies. We are heavily involved in the LED industry, but also the touch panel industry, and the solid oxide fuel cells, the SOFC.
These are all fields where we play an important role in order to support the industry and to make industries or technologies more efficient.
You mentioned that you supply to industries like the LED, touch panel displays, fuel cells, and various other high-end industries. How do you see the sectors progressing in line with your materials and what you're looking to achieve?
At present there is a process of substitution of traditional materials in many industries. One example where this can be seen is in the medical industry, the substitution of lead with our tungsten alloys is an ongoing process, to absorb radiation. So that means that not only lead in this particular case, but also if requirements and general conditions are becoming more and more severe, our materials, strong metals, are playing a more important role to help change technologies and make processes more efficient.
The best example may be for the Ion implantation industry, for the semiconductor industry. With our tungsten alloys, we can make processes more stable and more efficient, but also extend the lifetime of some equipment.
How can our readers learn more about Plansee’s activities?
The best way is to visit our webpage www.plansee.com where you not only find all of our products but also Plansee contact persons worldwide.
About Andreas Feichinger
Andreas Feichtinger is Head of Marketing and Sales Organisation at Plansee SE. He is also Plansee’s contact person for customer inquiries regarding conflict minerals.
Before his current position he worked in the production of Plansee before he opened the Plansee sales office in Mexico.
Andreas Feichtinger holds a degree in economics and mechanical engineering.
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