Innovations can help companies break new markets. In the vehicle sector, precision chemical company Dongsung Highchem has developed patented powder slush moulding technology with Hyundai-Kia. It is a less expensive way to produce thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), the material used by select European and American luxury carmakers for their dashboards and door trim parts. Apart from being durable and recyclable, TPU has a soft feel and favourable odour.
Many other manufacturers rely on Dongsung's expertise in developing chemicals that meet their specific product requirements.
"Our ability to customise our products to match our customers' needs makes us stand out from the competition," says president Yang Suk-mo. "Major chemical companies cannot compete with us on this point."
Dongsung also manufactures petroleum-based solvents used for items such as inks, paints, adhesives, fabrics and insulators. As one of the world's leading makers of organic peroxide, Dongsung plays a vital role in the fabrication of artificial marbles, optical lenses and a wide range of plastic products.
With innovation at the heart of its business, Dongsung dedicates about 20 per cent of its personnel to focus on research and development. The company also collaborates with universities in South Korea to create new products and improve existing ones. "We meet with professors regularly to work on projects," Yang says. "We're always on the lookout for research work that can be commercialised."
As the mainland and Southeast Asia move into the luxury car market and become the global base for vehicle production, Dongsung expects growing demand from the region for its vehicle TPU products.
"We want to introduce our new technology for TPU on the mainland," Yang says. "We're looking for partnerships which could start from simple trading relationships. It could later on develop into manufacturing and technological collaborations aimed at providing better quality products on the mainland."