The German adhesives industry considers itself to be very well positioned in the national and international competitive environment. In many industrial and craft sectors, adhesives are steadily gaining in importance in order to meet the sustainability criteria of the EU’s Green Deal. CO2 savings as well as energy and resource efficiency have top priority. In an exclusive interview, Dr. Vera Haye, General Manager of Industrieverband Klebstoffe e.V. (IVK), gives us an insight into current topics in the industry.

Dr. Haye, we congratulate you on your appointment as Chief Executive Officer of Industrieverband Klebstoffe e.V. as of January 1, 2021. What specific task was on your desk at the beginning of the year?

Thank you very much. First of all, there was a large bouquet of flowers on my desk from my colleagues, which I was extremely pleased about. The COVID 19 pandemic continues to challenge the adhesives industry and the Adhesives Industry Association this year, of course, and the ongoing lockdown is affecting different market segments, and thus our member companies, to varying degrees. A forecast for the year 2021 is hardly possible. However, we are convinced that the German adhesives industry remains very well positioned in the national and international competitive environment. Event planning also remains difficult for this year. The IVK is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and of course we would have liked to celebrate this in a fitting manner within the framework of an anniversary annual conference. However, the current situation unfortunately does not allow for this. I hope that we can make up for this next year. No less challenging are the activities of the European Commission under the Green Deal – keywords “Circular Economy Action Plan” and “Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability”, to name just two of many. Again, our most important task is to inform members and work with them to find solutions.

It is said that industrial adhesive bonding technology is a key technology of the 21st century? In what way?

The use of adhesives has become indispensable in many industrial and craft sectors and will become even more important in the future so that the sustainability criteria under the EU’s Green Deal can be met. CO2 savings as well as energy and resource efficiency have top priority. Adhesive bonding technology can be used to join almost any combination of materials, both identical and dissimilar, without losing any of the material properties and associated benefits. Many technological developments are only possible through the use of state-of-the-art adhesives. Particular mention should be made of energy-saving lightweight constructions in the transport sector, for example, but also electric cars as well as wind power or photovoltaic systems, which make it possible to achieve the climate targets in the first place.

Which topics are particular challenges for the adhesives industry in the coming years?

The Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability adopted in October 2020 comes with more than 50 planned individual measures alone. REACH and CLP regulations, as well as numerous other regulations, are to be amended and tightened. These topics must be accompanied by professional content and our members must be informed. The EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan stipulates that materials should be kept in circulation for as long as possible. In terms of material and resource efficiency, the recyclability and reparability of products are therefore of great importance. Bonded product components must be able to be detached to allow replacement or single-variety recycling. This is where innovative solutions for so-called “debonding on demand” are needed.

How does the German adhesives industry see itself positioned with regard to digitalization?

Detailed material- and process-related data along the entire value chain allow the optimization of parameters of a bonded product. In the future, digitization can also optimize the recyclability of a glued product, for example, and thus make an important contribution with regard to its resource and cost efficiency.

Adhesive bonding technology supports the circular economy and life cycle assessments - to what extent?

Bonded products can improve both energy efficiency and material efficiency compared to alternative products. A sustainable circular economy means that a product must be durable, repairable and recyclable, while saving as much energy as possible. Lightweight constructions with smart materials, which can often only be bonded, are worth highlighting. Particularly in the traffic and transport sector, lightweight materials save large amounts of energy. The service life of batteries is increased many times over if they are fixed with a thermally conductive adhesive that transports the heat generated away from the battery. Defective or broken products of any kind can be repaired with a suitable adhesive. And good product design, including end-of-life recycling, can be achieved with the right adhesive selection.

The German adhesives industry is regarded as a technology leader; almost half of its products have been exported to date. What is the basis for this success?

German industry is generally known as a technology leader in many areas and especially in high-tech goods, which always consist of different materials. Only the joining technology of adhesive bonding enables different high-tech materials to be joined in a way that is suitable for the material without losing their special properties. Adhesive bonding technology is therefore always an integral part of these high-quality capital goods. Important areas are, for example, automotive and aircraft construction, rail vehicle construction, electronics, mechanical engineering, optics, technical textiles and many more. And even supposedly simple applications such as gluing labels or shoes are now high-tech applications that require highly specialized adhesives.

Nevertheless, the barometer of sentiment in the German adhesives industry has fallen with regard to the market situation, sales and export development. Why is that?

The German adhesives industry operates in a heterogeneous and volatile environment. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is not only a global health crisis, it is also placing a significant strain on the world economy, and the consequences are not yet entirely clear. There is still a risk that international supply chains could be affected by production stoppages or border closures. A major threat also comes from production closures due to suspected cases. Trade conflicts and Brexit complications add to the difficulties. An overall economic recovery is expected to be slow. It is therefore understandable that there is a certain amount of uncertainty.

How important do you consider it for companies in the adhesives industry to have a presence at trade shows and to exchange ideas with customers in person?

In the pandemic, we realize that we can digitize some things, but there is no substitute for face-to-face conversations with business partners and customers. Trade shows provide the perfect setting for these B2B conversations as a networking platform.

The adhesives industry is also little perceived by the public. Do you want to change that?

The potential of adhesives is increasingly recognized by the public. Public relations has always been and remains one of the most important tasks of the IVK. Supported by our Public Relations Advisory Board, we inform consumers about what adhesives do in our everyday products. Our magazine “Kleben fürs Leben” (Bonding for Life) is published once a year in print form, and the informative articles on all aspects of bonding are also available digitally on our homepage at www.klebstoffe.com/kleben-fuers-leben/. But we also never tire of explaining the many advantages and potential of adhesive bonding technology to politicians and authorities.

What will be the main focus of the IVK as Chief Executive Officer?

The most important task will still be to react to the current framework conditions, i.e. the economic, political and technological trends, and to pass these on to the bodies of the IVK and to the membership. Regulatory affairs at the European level will certainly continue to gain in importance. The Sustainability Advisory Board and the Public Relations Advisory Board will provide cross-thematic support for all work.