Fergus McColl from Interchem shares his company’s experience as a supplier of specialty chemicals and how being an AfPA member has helped them grow.
- How long have you/your company been an AfPA member and why did you decide to become one?
Interchem joined AfPA (then AAPA) in 2016. We joined because we were relatively new to the road construction market and we felt it was a good chance to support the industry, to network and to see where we could add value.
- How did you start your career in the road construction industry?
While I have been involved in the construction industry for over 25 years, my involvement in road construction is more recent. As a specialty chemical supplier and manufacturer, we make and source a number of specialty materials used in the industry. In 2014, we began Australian production of specialty chemicals for use in foamed bitumen pavement construction.
- What is your current role and what does it involve?
I have a business development role for Interchem as part our Interchem Solutions team. We provide specialty chemicals, products and services to various industries, from the automotive industry, to construction, agriculture and even the Defence. I am charged with finding opportunities that are of value to new and existing customers.
- What is the best thing about your current role?
The flexibility we have as part of a relatively small company. I enjoy being able to work on problems or constraints that our customers have and finding solutions. I would encourage industry members to find challenges for us to work on together!
- What is your biggest achievement in the industry?
Our most significant achievement in the industry was when we identified and solved a problem which existed in the foamed bitumen pavement stabilisation area. We were working with a customer to solve a safety concern related to the handling of foaming additives. We were able to develop the first “non-dangerous” foaming additive with improved properties compared to the incumbent materials. This development, known as INTERFOAM, assisted one of our customers to win an Industry Safety Award. In my opinion, the material and service we offer is now an industry benchmark.
- What is a recent change you have seen in the industry and how are you/the company prepared for that?
An increased focus on the health and safety of workers in the industry is a significant and positive change. We are constantly looking for ways Interchem can assist through the development and supply of safer or easier to use specialty materials.
- What do you think is most interesting about the road construction industry?
I think the most interesting challenge in the industry in Australia is the unique balance we have with geographical size and population. We have a population of under 26 million, (and under 15 million taxpayers), yet our country is the close to the size of US or Europe. While much of our land is almost uninhabitable, we still have a huge requirement for infrastructure and a tiny tax base to fund it. We need to find ways to construct roads in a cost-effective way and make them as durable as possible.
- How has being a member of AfPA benefitted you in the industry?
One of the benefits of our AfPA membership is improving our networking and industry awareness. Given the current COVID-related restrictions, networking is a little more difficult. Once things normalise, we look forward to participating in AfPA conferences and exhibitions and having more conversations with industry stakeholders. The more conversations we have, the better we can uncover the needs of the industry. We do our best work when someone says, ‘I wish we could do this’ or ‘have you heard about that?’ I do not believe this is unique to me, or to Interchem. These face-to-face encounters are good for everyone.
- What are your goals for the future?
To continue to broaden our capabilities and portfolio in the industry. We expect to do this in areas where there is a need for improved outcomes, including environmental, safety, efficiency and sustainability. In the short term, we would like to focus on building sales and capabilities in the bitumen adhesion promoter area. The chemicals currently used are effective but are very hazardous to workers and the environment. We would like to work with the industry to improve the environmental, health and safety characteristics of these materials. An aspirational goal is to push into future sustainable technologies that transform the industry in areas of recycling, renewable energy and/or carbon capture.
This article was originally published in the December edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.