During JEC Innovative International Composites Summit (I.I.C.S) in Singapore, Chuck Dana, group president of the Owens Corning Composite Solutions Business, delivered a keynote speech outlining a 2020 vision for what the composites industry must do in the next 10 years to transform the materials market and gain market share against steel, wood and aluminum.
"The need has never been greater for the value composite materials deliver," said Dana. "Bridges, roads and pipes need composites to resist corrosion and last longer. Cars, trucks, trains and planes need to weigh less and be durable. And new, cleaner energy sources like wind energy need the light weight and strength that composite materials provide.
"Yet, even with the incredible progress we've made as an industry developing thousands of applications for composites, our share of the materials market is 1.5 percent," continued Dana, outlining four macro trends key to driving greater use of composite materials in the future: energy efficiency, renewable energy, developing economies and sustainability.
"These trends can drive our industry," added Dana. "But to truly benefit from the opportunities they deliver, we will all need to keep an outside-in point of view on what our stakeholders are looking for, and how we can most powerfully deliver on the promise of composites."
Dana described key stakeholders for the industry as customers, shareholders and governments.
For customers, Dana highlighted the need for the industry to match capacity to demand worldwide - especially in growth markets like the BRIC countries, which he said should be renamed CIRB (for China, India, Russia and Brazil) to reflect the size of their expected growth rates. "The CIRB markets alone already make up a third of the demand for composite materials, and growth is expected to continue to be strong," said Dana. "We have to be able to supply customers in those markets, or the materials of choice will simply remain traditional materials."
Despite the opportunities to meet customer demand, Dana stressed that this expansion is not possible without the industry's ability to demonstrate sustained return on capital for shareholders. "The last two years have given us a much more cynical financial world and capital is hard to generate," stressed Dana. "A clear challenge for our industry is to continue to generate returns that will allow us to continue to grow and invest. Cash is king, and necessary to fuel growth that will allow the world to truly take advantage of the benefits of composite materials."
When it comes to governments, Dana noted that increasing pressure to raise the bar on sustainability at every level will be key for industry players looking to expand globally.
"The opportunity and the need is tremendous to continue to innovate and educate governments and customers on how composites can improve the durability of infrastructure and enable new, renewable energy sources," he said.
"Now is our time," Dana concluded. "But as leaders in the industry, to increase our share of the materials market we have to turn our vision outward and focus on the true competition, which is traditional materials. Sustainable returns on capital, capacity investments to ensure our global customers have the products where and when they want them, and continuing to educate on how composites can help customers and governments meet sustainability goals, is a powerful combination and a focus that will truly help drive the use of composite materials in the market."