Kaneka makes Flanders the site of its largest MS Polymer production plant

Supplying markets as diverse as chemicals, functional and foamed plastics, food, life sciences and electronics, Kaneka has clear faith in Flanders. In 2017, the Japanese firm further strengthened its future in the region by allocating EUR 34 million to the construction of a third cutting-edge modified silicone polymer production line at its facility in Westerlo. The new addition will supply Europe, Africa and the Middle East with an innovative liquid polymer for the industrial market. When completed at the end of 2018, the upgraded Flanders-based production plant will be Kaneka’s largest in the world.

1970 marked the foundation of Kaneka’s subsidiary in Westerlo, Flanders – its very first outside Japan, and the first site of a Japanese chemical firm in Belgium as a whole. Since then, Kaneka has expanded its business and R&D activities in the Flanders region to encompass diverse functional and foamed plastics solutions.

The company also sealed a partnership with imec, Flanders’ leading nanotechnology research center. Part of a 3-year, EUR 90-million global investment plan titled ‘Kaneka 2020’, the Japanese firm’s most recent investment of EUR 34 million cements its role as a leading player in high-performance polymers.

In facts and figures

  • Parent company: Kaneka Corporation
  • HQ: Osaka and Tokyo, Japan
  • Annual turnover: EUR 4.6 billion (Kaneka Belgium: EUR 291 million)
  • Present in Flanders since: 1970
  • Number of employees in Flanders: 309
  • Website: www.kaneka.be

A major capacity increase, a sustainable transport shift

A series of multimillion euro investments within the last decade have made Kaneka a firm fixture in the chemistry landscape of Flanders.  At the end of 2018, Kaneka will expand its local production capacity of MS polymer – the base resin in high-performing sealants, adhesives, and coatings used in the construction, automotive and do-it-yourself (DIY) sectors.

Totaling EUR 34 million, the investment mainly goes toward adding a third production line. This will boost Kaneka’s output in Westerlo by 50%, enabling the Japanese company to meet growing demand in EMEA and penetrate new markets.

“The investment is strategically very important to Kaneka,” asserts Katsutoshi Shichijo, president of Kaneka Belgium. “The Flanders-based MS Polymer manufacturing facility will be the largest in the group.” In addition, the funds will be used to install a new raw material storage facility with a capacity of 1,500 m³, and construct a fully-fledged ship unloading facility to boost the company’s shipping capabilities. “With the new line at full capacity, we will be able to keep 900 ADR trucks from the road in favor of more ecologically friendly water transport,” adds Jean Vandael, plant general manager of Kaneka Belgium in Westerlo.

A prime location in a growing market

The location of its factories along the Albert Canal in Flanders have afforded Kaneka important logistical advantages. Not only do local conditions – such as the presence of the shipping route and important road transportation hubs – contribute, but Flanders’ location at the heart of Europe and its highly educated and productive citizens do as well.

“The investment confirms how important our factories in Flanders are to Kaneka’s ambitions in Europe and beyond,” Vandael elaborates. “As such, it’s an essential element of our 3-year global investment strategy.”

Picture of Katsutoshi Shichijo, President Kaneka Belgium and Jean Vandael, Plant General Manager Kaneka Belgium

Katsutoshi Shichijo, President Kaneka Belgium and Jean Vandael, Plant General Manager Kaneka Belgium