Resonac Graphite Business Unit : The Power of Chemistry

Nicholas KernanLily Sawyer
Nicholas Kernan - Project Manager Lily Sawyer - Editor

As a company acutely aware of global decarbonization efforts, Resonac Graphite Business Unit leverages sustainable production processes and a robust continuity framework to present a comprehensive product and service offering to the steelmaking industry. César Castiñeira Diaz, President and CEO, tells us more.

THE POWER OF CHEMISTRY

Driven by its mission to change society through the power of chemistry, Resonac Graphite Business Unit (RGBU) is part of Resonac Holdings Corporation (Resonac), headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.  

The corporation came about as a result of the acquisition of Hitachi Chemicals by Showa Denko K.K., and officially gained its Resonac moniker in January 2023. The name is a combination of ‘resonate’ and the ‘c’ from ‘chemistry’, in acknowledgement of the corporation’s history as a chemicals company.  

Boasting over 1,600 employees and a global footprint, with manufacturing facilities across Asia Pacific, Europe, and the US, RGBU strives to maintain integrity and a solid vision across its numerous iterations.  

RGBU is acutely aware of the valuable properties that graphite offers. Indeed, with its growing use in electric vehicle (EV) batteries, the mineral is playing a significant role in changing not just the chemicals industry, but society as a whole.  

As such, graphite today is in high demand, and so are the companies who produce it.  

“Our graphite electrodes are helping us to change society through chemistry in a meaningful way,” introduces César Castiñeira Diaz, President and CEO of RGBU. 

Historically, the steel industry, RGBU’s primary customer, has been responsible for approximately seven percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and 11 percent of global CO2 emissions.  

However, RGBU’s sustainable steel production process, which involves remelting scrap steel in an electric arc furnace (EAF), saves up to 80 percent of CO2 emissions compared to traditional blast furnace methods.  

“As steelmakers around the world seek to reduce their carbon footprint, they are opting to replace their blast furnaces with EAFs,” he reveals.   

In this way, RGBU considers its products and services to be essential contributors to the global decarbonization effort.

“Our graphite electrodes are helping us to change society through chemistry in a meaningful way”

César Castiñeira Diaz, President and CEO, Resonac Graphite Business Unit

RADICAL INNOVATION

Undeterred by a saturated and constantly evolving landscape, RGBU has seen its competitors in the graphite electrode industry remain fiercely active.  

“This continued competition creates an environment in which we are forced to focus on constant improvement,” comments Diaz.  

As a result, the company has fostered a sense of urgency towards innovation in this traditionally conservative industry. For example, RGBU’s contributions to the electric steelmaking sector are now more efficient, customer focused, and environmentally friendly to remain competitive.  

To achieve this, the company has leveraged strategic partnerships up and down the value chain to co-create solutions and incubate innovation.  

Notably, RGBU believes that innovation is not measured by R&D budget alone, but includes conscious decision-making to cultivate a culture in which people can grow.  

As such, the company seeks to create an atmosphere conducive to creative innovation and a working environment in which its people are not afraid to challenge the status quo.  

“It is the people and their mindsets that produce ideas, so the environment is important. In turn, these ideas create the type of radical innovations that will make lasting changes,” Diaz asserts. 

RGBU’s Employer of Choice (EoC) program seeks to further its ability to radically innovate by making the company a benchmark within local labor markets, enabling it to attract and retain the best talent whilst fostering a culture of excellence, diversity, inclusion, and commitment.  

The company’s overall goal for the EoC program is to offer its employees a unique and differentiated experience where they can be part of something bigger than themselves. 

“In the long run, you find that the people who feel empowered to change the world are the ones who actually do,” he states.  

RESILIENT AND SUSTAINABLE

Despite its significant size, RGBU believes that a company can never be bigger than the value it provides its customers and stakeholders.  

Therefore, it aims to be resilient and sustainable in the sense of remaining present for its customers in the long run.  

“We believe we owe it to our employees, customers, suppliers, and stakeholders to be a business that can be trusted,” Diaz imparts.  

As such, RGBU retains strong corporate governance and visionary leaders who safeguard key aspects of the company’s ongoing sustainability.  

Resonac’s large global platform also provides a considerable advantage to RGBU as customers begin to evaluate the impact of Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions on their operations.  

“In this case, our sizable platform is aiding our sustainability efforts, both economically and environmentally,” he explains.  

In addition, RGBU implements a business continuity framework in which it keeps significant inventories of key components and raw materials, ensuring it can always fulfill partner commitments and further cementing its ongoing sustainability and resilience as a business.  

In recent years, global disruptions such as war, natural disasters, and political conflict have presented potential obstacles to fulfilling business commitments, yet the company’s continuity framework prevents this eventuality. 

“We live in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, but RGBU is well-positioned to uphold its commitments regardless of these circumstances.” 

Accordingly, based on its strategy to eliminate the probability of business interruption, RGBU’s production facilities have achieved the sought-after status of ‘highly protected risk’ from its regional insurance partners. 

A SUPPLIER AND EMPLOYER OF CHOICE

RGBU believes it is people that make the difference. If a company can be an employer of choice, then it can attract and retain the right people and increase its likelihood of being successful.   

“When it comes to business, wanting to be the employer of choice seems obvious. Implementation can be challenging, but the concept is simple,” Diaz explains.  

Being a supplier of choice, however, is more nuanced for RGBU, as it seeks to be customer-centric without commoditizing its products and services.  

“Unfortunately, due to a proliferation of new market capacity in recent years, complex, value-adding products such as graphite electrodes have been downgraded by way of commoditization,” he reveals.  

On the whole, despite a significant increase in supply from emerging markets threatening to undermine RGBU’s products, its customers remain loyal and continue to value the company’s characteristics of quality, reliability, and stability. 

However, there are some cases in which more economical applications are sufficient to meet customer needs. In this instance, and to meet this need, RGBU developed and launched ΩMEGA – an electrode specifically designed to compete with market suppliers whilst being produced in a factory with 100 percent renewable electricity.  

“With ΩMEGA, our aim was to develop a competitively priced product in a traditionally low-priced market, but do it in an environmentally-friendly manner, and I am happy to say we have done that. To us, this is innovation,” Diaz prides.  

In addition to the development of ΩMEGA, the recent acquisition of AMI Automation (AMI), a Mexico-based technology company, has bolstered RGBU’s status as a supplier of choice and optimized its EAF capabilities.  

“Our customers deeply value technology and service, and AMI is a world-leader in EAF optimization. As such, RGBU’s purchase of AMI is another example of innovation and our focus on customer centricity,” he expands.

Diana Fajardo

FUTURE POTENTIAL

In the face of the steel industry’s notoriously cyclical nature, RGBU anticipates a challenging year ahead, especially as it experiences an ongoing downturn.  

“Our goal is to navigate challenging times without negatively affecting our quality, efficiency, or service,” Diaz asserts.  

To do so, RGBU ensures that its customers’ operations and value chains are not impacted by geopolitical conflict, economic downturn, or natural disasters through its robust business continuity framework.  

Furthermore, although it has no plans to expand its manufacturing capacity going forward, the implementation of products such as ΩMEGA has diversified the company’s portfolio, whilst an uptake in solutions-oriented technical services following the acquisition of AMI has seen the company grow its capabilities.  

“With these improvements, RGBU can be considered a one-stop shop for steelmakers. We ensure that each product and service required for melting steel is managed by a company with a robust business continuity framework, accompanied by a long history of reliability and integrity.” 

In addition, Resonac’s recent land purchase in A Coruña, Spain acknowledges the future potential for synthetic graphite production.  

RGBU views this as a direct investment in the expertise of its graphite team, leveraging over 100 years of manufacturing experience to produce sustainable options to overcome challenges faced by the EV supply chain.  

“We see this recent land purchase as a complement to our existing graphite electrode business,” Diaz enthuses.  

As always, RGBU will continue to innovate tirelessly, as it anticipates this investment will further solidify the company as a world-leader in the graphite industry.

RESONAC GRAPHITE BUSINESS UNIT PARTNERS

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By Nicholas Kernan Project Manager
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Nick Kernan is a Project Manager for Outlook Publishing. Nick is responsible for showcasing corporate stories in our digital B2B magazines and Digital Platforms, and sourcing collaborations with Business Leaders, Brands, and C-suite Executives to feature in future editions. Nick is actively seeking opportunities to collaborate. Reach out to Nick to discover how you and your business could be our next cover story.
By Lily Sawyer Editor
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Lily Sawyer is an in-house writer for EME Outlook Magazine, where she is responsible for interviewing corporate executives and crafting original features for the magazine, corporate brochures, and the digital platform.