ICSO Chemical Production in southern Poland has chosen not to be dependent on sales of one single product. Instead the company has concentrated on a broad range of organic chemical products, primarily additives needed in the metal, textile, paint, pulp and paper, foodstuffs, and mining industries. Customers are also to be found in the building and road construction, telecoms, and power sectors and in the field of environmental care. "We are a relatively small company and have something of a 'chemical kitchen' where we can cook up most things," says Marek Marcin'ski with a smile. "But while we have good references abroad, there is some suspicion in the West when it comes to small East European companies. That's why we have to fight for our market position in all our product sectors."
"Among the most important aspects of this is to maintain good contacts with our customers and make use of the expertise of our successful suppliers. For example, as we have done with Nynas Naphthenics. This is why we are anxious to cooperate with a number of foreign companies on seminars and workshops that we organise with customers and suppliers. We try to use this experience and knowledge as much as possible."
With a market share of between 50% and 70%, ICSO ChP is also one of Poland's biggest manufacturers of additives used to prevent fertilisers from forming or 'caking' into lumps. The company currently only sells its anticaking products in Poland, but is trying to break into other markets too, primarily in Eastern Europe. "Our products maintain a high quality, but the competition is very tough," says Marek Marcin'ski. "We are working to convince customers in the post-Soviet states of the advantages of our products. Unfortunately many of them are experiencing severe economic difficulties and therefore feel they cannot afford to buy foreign goods."
Naturally the markets of Western Europe are also attractive. But they present a number of difficulties. According to Marek Marcin'ski, the biggest obstacles are currency regulations and trade formalities. "We hope to find ourselves in a more normal market situation, without political obstacles, when the EU is fully open for Poland, which hopes to become a member state within two or three years. In that position we would have good export prospects since we have good products and competitive prices. We are certain that we can succeed in the wider European market."
"In 10 years we have developed into an open, flexible company, which is private in all respects when discussing cooperation with foreign companies. We can produce high quality at competitive prices so we have a lot going for us where the future is concerned. Right now there are economic problems in Poland and the world as a whole. But we are hoping for more stable profitability and production in the not too distant future."
Marek Marcin'ski feels he holds a number of good cards to play when the EU market opens up for Poland: "To start with we are close to the market. When it comes to fertilisers, one of Poland’s biggest producers is in the neighbourhood. Geographically we are very close to Germany, and also to the Czech Republic and Hungary. In Europe, distances are actually no major problem and we have experience of selling worldwide through our export of brake fluids." "Another advantage of our position is that in the Katowice area there are many suppliers of raw materials for chemicals and for many of the petrochemical additives we need."
ICSO ChP maintains a very close relationship with a research institute, from wich the additives supplier was separated 10 years ago. This link is a further major advantage, says ICSO ChP Marketing and Development Manager Antoni ¯o³tañski. "Contacts between the company and the institute, which carries out research projects, development work and analyses for us, are both close and good. The laboratory maintains a very high standard, and we get all the support we need. Together we aim to develop new products, ideally with new and more efficient technology, that the market wants. When we know what our customers want, we develop a model for what the product in question should be like and then we hand the project on to those who work in research and development.”
ICSO ChP is adapting to the change from a planned to a market economy within a short period and at a time when Poland's economic situation remains difficult. For a relatively small company to do this when profit margins are thin, demands dedicated and creative management and good collaboration partners. Marek Marcin'ski names an important collaboration partner as the Technical University in Szczecin where Nynas Naphthenics and CECA, a chemicals specialist subsidiary of TotalAtoFina, carry out tests.
"It is very important for us to have good relations with our suppliers," emphasises Marek Marcin'ski. "In addition to Nynas Naphthenics, we also have very good contacts with Nynas Bitumen. In general we have very good contacts with foreign companies, such as TotalAtoFina and BASF. And we are constantly striving to develop our international cooperation." "We took advantage of our good contacts with Nynas when we together developed one of our products, Anpol, about two years ago," says ICSO ChP Technical Engineer Janusz Hariasz. "With our know-how and experience we knew what we needed, and Nynas' experts helped us find a good solution. Now we are seeing whether we can develop and modernise our oldest and best selling fertiliser, Ferkam, with the help of Nynas oils, so that this product will also become more user friendly."
ICSO ChP manufactures bespoke products for its customers. In each class of fertiliser there are various solutions for anticaking. Tests are carried out for each product so that it suits the particular conditions in which it will be used. "In general," says Marek Marcin'ski, "we work with pretty complex technology. Moreover, our products come into direct contact with foodstuffs. That's why they have to be approved by the Polish equivalent of the USA's FDA (Food and Drug Administration). And it goes without saying that our products cannot contain carcinogenic substances."
"During our work with Nynas, the company's Polish representative Piotr Sokól presented the possibility of using naphthenic oil. It suited our production of anticaking substances for fertiliser products very well." "The oil we buy from Nynas Naphthenics is thinly fluid, as are our products. It is very important that the thinly fluid property is retained in the final product, so that the end user does not need any special equipment when the fertiliser is to be used. In addition, it has to be able to withstand transportation, for example by sea and through pipelines, without caking."
Marek Marcin'ski says that Nynas oils, in addition to having the desired high solubility, also fulfil all other requirements. He says that ICSO ChP has previously tried paraffinic oils, but have not achieved the desired good anticaking results. He also feels that the concentration of heavy metals, such as sulphur, is too high in paraffinic oils. He emphasises that a low polycyclical aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) content is very important for users of fertilisers.
ICSO ChP buys about 22-23 metric tonnes of oil from Nynas Naphthenics each month. The deliveries come from Nynas’ depot in Szczecin, on Poland's north coast. "We are kept continuously informed about the size of the stock and when the next consignment will arrive by boat," explains Antoni Mielecki. "We are very satisfied with the logistics and transportation service. This cooperation has worked excellently and we like to use products from companies such as Nynas that develop their own high quality products with independent research and development."
ICSO Chemical Production Ltd manufactures organic chemical products in primarily four areas: chemical products for industry; compounds (mixtures of substances) for telecoms industry cabling; brake fluids; and anticaking agents for fertilisers.
The company is situated in Kedzierzyn-Kozle about 70 km from Katowice and has about 180 employees.
ICSO Chemical Production Ltd (ICSO ChP) was established in 1992 as a result of a restructuring of ICSO (The Institute of Heavy Organic Synthesis), one of Poland's leading chemical research institutes.
The company was established after commercial production was separated from the institute's research activities.
Many of the shares in the company are held by the employees of ICSO and ICSO ChP, while the controlling interest is held by ICSO.