You won’t find anyone in the chemical industry around the Mediterranean who hasn’t heard of Quimidroga S. A. With 496 employees, a turnover approaching a billion euros a year and sales offices in Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, Morocco and Algeria, the business has transformed out of all recognition since its formation as a family business in 1944. But 75 years on, the company remains a privately-owned Spanish company and still operates with the strong corporate values of its founder.

We spoke to Judith Centeno, who leads Quimidroga’s monomers and ethylene glycols Business Unit. For the last 10 years, Judith has also operated as Lucite International’s (LI) Sales Manager for Iberia and Maghreb with responsibility for LI’s customers in Spain and the logistics of MMA within Quimidroga’s territory.

Today, the business boasts the best warehouse facility in South Europe at Barcelona port, with 30,000m2 with storage for packed products, 28 docks for loading and unloading, 155 tanks with individual pumps and pipes, 21 road tankers docks, 6 drumming machines and 26,000Mt capacity for blending and solid dissolution.

With sustained growth over the last ten years, Centeno explains that internationalisation and diversification have been key for Quimidroga’s growth. In 2009 Spain accounted for 85% of sales. Today the proportion of international business has doubled to 34% of the company’s turnover. The goal is to increase this to 50% in the future. The company now supplies over 5,000 specialties and commodities to 17 different industries, allowing it to achieve steady average growth while insulating it to a large extent from periodic shortfalls in particular sectors or regions.

However, despite the company now being a very large international business, it has deliberately retained much of the flexibility of a smaller operation, able to rapidly adapt to changing market demands.  To be able to give a better service to customers, its business units are specialists in their respective industries. Having already invested in laboratory formulation capabilities for applications like detergency and cosmetics the company is now rapidly digitising all of its processes to enhance its efficiency.

In terms of business culture, Quimidroga is very much a ‘people’ business, describing itself as having three fundamental relationship pillars: customers, suppliers and the Quimidroga team. It sees this as the “software” that drives the business – its operating system. It recognises that this system requires a sophisticated logistics system to operate smoothly. Constant investment in this “hardware” is what underpins the business. As with all major corporations, over recent years sustainable development has become a priority for Quimidroga. It has a dedicated management team working to implement sustainability policies using tools such as Responsible Care, SQAS and ISO 14001 and so was delighted to receive the recognition of a gold assessment from EcoVadis in 2019.

A strong Iberian partnership

Quimidroga was already LI’s distributor when Repsol closed its MMA production in Spain over ten years ago. At this point the decision was taken to work in partnership to become a global methacrylates supplier with a ‘local feeling’. Centeno observes that the methacrylates business has been a bit of a roller-coaster over recent years. Traditionally a very stable business, it experienced a global short supply situation which effectively turned the market upside down before, more recently, becoming over-supplied with many more players in the market.

But through it all the success of the Quimidroga/LI partnership has been beyond the expectations of both companies, with the two businesses now sharing market leadership in Iberia. This is a region where there is a high percentage of medium and small companies requiring a strong commercial team to service a very dynamic market where flexibility and just-in-time logistic efficiency are critical for success.

Pictured [L-R]: Mairen Toldra (International Land Transport Manager) Inmaculada Morales (Logistics), Gemma Estela (Logistics) Astrid Alvarez (LI Sales Assistant), Josep Llorca (Logistics) Ines Martinez (Sales Assistant Monomers & EG’s), Judith Centeno (LI Sales Manager)

Centeno summarises:

“Quimidroga’s relationship with LI is very symbiotic and mutually profitable. Methacrylates represent 50% of the total sales of my business unit and LI has been able to gain deep insights into our markets and we have, in turn, gained the market perspective of a leading producer approach, which is very different to our own. It’s a win-win situation.”