Product safety and stewardship

Our product is used in a broad range of industries and is found in countless technical applications. As product is one of the three key levers of our SOE strategy, it is important that we help our customers to handle and use carbon black effectively and safely. This is achieved through responsible product stewardship, and by ensuring that we act responsibly across all of our operations and value chain.

How do we create safe products?

Our business depends on maintaining our customers’ trust. This trust begins with the safety of our product. Birla Carbon works hard to ensure our carbon black meets and exceeds all relevant regulatory standards. We also endeavor to keep abreast of the latest market initiatives and industry developments so we can support our customers in meeting their own regulatory obligations.

Product responsibility

We provide our customers with high quality, thoroughly tested carbon black that meets or exceeds health, safety and environmental requirements and can be handled safely.

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Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure


Creating more sustainable processes and products through our technology roadmap

Product responsibility across the value chain

We divide our value chain into four areas:

Carbon extraction, refinement and transportation

Carbon extraction, refinement and transportation
Extraction and refinement

Extraction and refinement:

This carbon feedstock sourcing stage is not controlled by Birla Carbon. We expect our suppliers to maintain the highest ethical and environmental standards in their activities.

Transportation

Transportation:

We have health, safety and quality controls in place for handling all raw materials.

Manufacturing process

Manufacturing Process Head
Manufacturing Process
Reactor

Reactor

State-of-the-art technology enhances production efficiency.

Baghouse

Baghouse:

The best possible control of emissions and the containment of our carbon black powder is ensured through the use of the most advanced filter bags.

Rotary Dryer

Rotary dryer:

Strict product testing is conducted at this stage to meet customer specifications and safety standards

Bulk Storage

Bulk storage:

Once customer requirements have been met, the product is directed to specific silos and later shipped.

Transportation to customers

Transportation to customers
Shipping

Shipping:

Before shipment to our customers, the carbon black is further tested by our quality department, which generates a Certificate of Analysis (CoA) to guarantee product quality.

End product

End Product
Customer Sites

Customer sites:

Our Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) are continuously updated and provided in over 25 languages. Specific product safety documentation is supplied to customers on request.

Investing in safety

Birla Carbon’s strategy is to continually invest to meet our customers’ requirements for product safety information. We implemented a testing program to proactively identify any information gaps on a per-product basis. The goal is to inform internal and external customers on product characteristics, safe, effective and approved uses, as well as health and environmental risks.

By seeking input and support from all business areas, we facilitate product consistency and compliance from a product stewardship perspective. Through this program, our internal businesses have access to the most current technical information, advice and support. Furthermore, our customers can access accurate and timely information, presented through SDSs, labels and general responses.

An example of our active improvement work can be seen in our structural testing process, where we have completed the substitution of dibutylphthalate (DBP), a plasticizing chemical used to measure the structure of our product, with a safer alternative at all locations.

Enhancing customer understanding

Customers and end consumers want to understand more about carbon black. In FY2016, Birla Carbon received in excess of 2,000 queries related to product safety and compliance with specific environmental or food contact regulations. In 100% of cases we were able to send an initial response within one business day. We also continuously educate our sales and distribution network about carbon black product safety and its regulated applications.

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Over 2,000

letters sent in response to customer product safety requests 

Improving our processes

We invest in research and development to maintain leadership in our industry and build for the future through innovative and state-of-the-art processes. Our development and use of the best available technology enables us to improve our product, identify new opportunities for carbon black applications and closely assess our product sustainability. Birla Carbon develops new grades to improve the performance of our customers’ products. We also propose new carbon black products that are less energy demanding during the incorporation phase in rubber, plastic, ink or paint formulations.

Our Technology Roadmap is designed to coordinate and reinforce our approach to technology and product development by focusing on three main drivers – growth, sustainability and cost and quality.

The three drivers of our technology roadmap

  • Introduce a standard engineering design package to ensure we build and maintain industry-leading facilities.
  • Establish strong relationships with engineering and construction firms in all our locations globally.
  • Increase capacity for production of Specialty Black grades.
  • Utilize tail gas as fuel commercially.
  • Operate high temperature and pressure co-generation units to maximize energy recovery.
  • Increase commercialization of low rolling resistance tread material. Proactively exceed all environmental regulatory requirements ahead of time.
  • Operate a new carcass black unit to significantly increase yield and quality.
  • Commercially utilize alternative feedstock routes.
  • Ensure all our plants meet a yield and energy recovery benchmark.
  • Highlight our global product capability and consistency as a competitive advantage.

Product stewardship

To foster a culture of product stewardship in our operations, we have established a standardized approach across the company, specifically for our employees at the manufacturing level. Employees are encouraged to “stop, think and ask,” by seeking advice and support, before and during process development and production changes.

Auditing our sites

The challenges we face include consistently aligning all Birla Carbon’s sites with our Product Stewardship Standard (the Standard) and vision and helping our employees understand its benefits. The Standard requires enhanced testing intervals for all products and a robust description of which actions trigger product re-testing at a manufacturing site. In FY2016, we modified the product stewardship audits so that they are conducted in conjunction with Health, Safety & Environment (HS&E) audits.

Product Stewards are responsible for monitoring standards and implementing a global training program to equip our workforce with greater stewardship knowledge and expertise. Once a Product Steward has been appointed at each manufacturing facility, the sites undergo an annual self-assessment to measure progress relative to implementation of the Standard. The stewards participate in regional Product Stewardship Committees, who report to a Global Product Stewardship Steering Committee.

case study

Creating a product stewardship culture

Building any corporate culture requires effort, time, and education. To ensure that product stewardship takes root in our operations, Birla Carbon has developed training programs for all employees who interact with our product. The training, which occurs at a corporate, regional and local level, is designed to ensure that our employees understand how their roles affect product stewardship and how to implement the Product Stewardship Standard.

The training, which is conducted at each site by the Global Product Stewardship Manager, began in FY2016, and has so far covered:

  • Sales and Technical Services employees;
  • employees at our office in Marietta and North Bend facility, in the United States;
  • managers at our plant in Alexandria, Egypt; and
  • Quality Assurance personnel in the Europe and Africa and South Asia regions.

Although training is adapted to each group, all courses include a focus on the Product Stewardship Standard concept and requirements. Training for production personnel focuses on how changes in feedstock, processes, equipment and other variables can impact our carbon black, while Sales and Technical Services employees learn more about new products and how to communicate with customers. To date, approximately 100 employees have been trained; Birla Carbon hopes to train all remaining relevant personnel by the end of FY2017.

We have also begun applying the Standard regionally. We started at our speciality products facility in North Bend, which provided us with a useful test case for implementation into an active workflow and processes. Close inspection of the North Bend manufacturing site enabled us to determine when would be best to conduct facility inspections. The test case also encouraged us to add a product stewardship section to certification forms, requiring any future process changes to be considered based on their potential impact on the product.

 
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Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure


Creating more sustainable processes and products through our technology roadmap

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Over 2,000

letters sent in response to customer product safety requests