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Interview Home > Interview

Interview with Mr. Alessandro Dazza, CEO of Imerys Group

2021-07-08


Alessandro Dazza graduated from Politecnico di Milano (Business Engineering).

After starting his industrial career in Italy in 1991, he joined in 1995 Treibacher Schleifmittel in Germany. He participated in a management buyout with a few key managers and became a member of its Managing Board.
Alessandro Dazza joined Imerys in 2002 when Imerys bought Treibacher Schleifmittel.
From 2002 until 2013, Alessandro Dazza held various roles within Imerys and in July 2013, he became Executive Vice President, member of the Executive Committee, in charge of 3 divisions with total sales of approximately €2B.
In November 2018, following the arrival of a new CEO and as the result of a new reorganization, Alessandro Dazza left Imerys. He joined Mondi Plc, a leading company in packaging and paper, as a member of the Executive Committee, was in charge of 2 divisions with total sales of approximately €4B.
Alessandro Dazza became Imerys’ Chief Executive Officer on February 17, 2020.



Mr. Alessandro Dazza, CEO of Imerys Group


Refwin: Imerys has made an organization adjustment in 2019. Would you please introduce what is new for your refractories organization? 


Mr. Dazza: In 2019, Imerys embarked on a transformation journey with 3 clear objectives: increase our focus on customers to better serve their needs, improve efficiency by streamlining the organization and building a more competitive industrial base, and leverage its innovation potential.


For this, we created two segments of activities: Performance Minerals and High Temperature Materials & Solutions, divided into five Business Areas, with centralized functions to offer more efficient support and deeper expertise.


Refractory markets are addressed by the High Temperature Materials & Solutions segment through two separate businesses: Refractory, Abrasives & Construction (RAC) and High Temperature Solutions (HTS), which includes the Calderys business.


●       The RAC business is led by Philippe Bourg. RAC focuses on supplying specialty minerals and solutions to a diversified number of industries, refractories being an important one of them.
In 2020, this Business Area represented more than 4,000 employees, 39 operational sites in 15 countries, 3 Technology Centers in Austria, France and China and more than 4,500 customers worldwide. RAC revenue in 2020 represented 1.1 billion euro.


●       HTS is led by Michel Cornelissen. The Business Area focuses on thermal protection of industrial equipment, metal casting, as well as flow and casting solutions for industries with extreme temperatures and working conditions such as iron & steel, foundry, boilers and incinerators, petrochemicals or cement, to name a few.


HTS has 2,500 employees, sales in more than 100 countries, with 36 production facilities, 1 technology center and 6 innovation labs, to serve close to 6,000 customers worldwide. In 2020, HTS represented app. 600m euro of revenue.


Refwin: How did Imerys confront the difficulties of Covid-19? What do you think is the biggest challenge that Imerys faces now and after the pandemic? 


Mr. Dazza: Minerals are in general a key component of our economies. Refractories, in particular, play a critical role in many sectors ranging from automotive to construction, or even medical equipment. Our role was, therefore, crucial throughout the pandemic.


When the crisis started, our first priority was to implement strict sanitary protection protocols based on local regulations and international guidelines. Critically, our objective was to ensure the health and safety of our teams, our customers and our external stakeholders, while ensuring, at the same time, the continuity of our business and the supply to customers. Our employees have shown tremendous resilience in the face of the challenges posed by the crisis and I want to congratulate and thank them all.  


Today the situation is completely different and although the pandemic is far from being over, the main issue has become the capacity to supply rapidly increasing demand for our products. Imerys has demonstrated its agility to adapt and to ramp up productions at all its sites in the shortest possible time. This has been successfully achieved, though disruptions in the supply chain and rising inflation are causing some headaches at the moment.


Refwin: A viewpoint has indicated that most business transactions will be through digital platforms within minerals supply chains in coming years. What is your opinion? Has Imerys set any plans on this topic? 


Mr. Dazza: Imerys is strongly investing in this field and we are notably working on streamlining and developing our digital presence with the customer experience as the key focus.


This year, we are harmonizing all our websites into one in order to offer customers a complete catalogue of our mineral solutions in a ‘one-stop shop approach’, which will simplify interactions.


The new digital platform will facilitate our efforts to ensure up-to-date product information is readily available to our customers, and will allow e-commerce functionalities, such as online reordering, to create more efficient processes. 


Refwin: What is the most likely direction for developments in mineral process manufacturing in the coming 5 years? (mine, processing, or solutions)


Mr. Dazza: The future of mining, as well as that of the processing industry, will be to create and operate “smart factories”, where digitalization will become first a competitive advantage, then a must to survive. As such, we are working intensively on our Industry 4.0 program, as we want to be frontrunners in this development.


We are currently implementing several breakthrough technologies such as real-time monitoring and use of data analytics for process optimization, augmented reality for remote expertise, computer vision and machine learning quality control, drones imagery for digital mine supervision and inspection, fleet management optimization using smart sensors, and virtual reality to enhance our safety training.


Our long-term goal is that all of these new technologies and tools are used in combination to create an intelligent and dynamic production facility where algorithms embedded in the machinery and equipment can improve our processes. 


Refwin: Imerys seems to strengthen its refractories production segment, by acquiring more refractories producers (including Haznedar and Sunward) in recent years. Have you moved your business to focus more on refractories products/solutions from mineral processes? 


Mr. Dazza: As a Group, Imerys has a long history of expansion through external growth. This has resulted in a series of acquisitions, including in the refractory market, both upstream in the value chain, such as DAMERC, CE-Minerals, Treibacher Schleifmittel and most recently Kerneos, but also in refractory solutions, such as Haznedar and Sunwards.


The Group is always looking for growth opportunities, and is ready to seize these opportunities when they arise; in and around its core businesses. Our goal is to continue to expand our product range and to position ourselves in high-growth geographies.


Refwin: Most of Imerys’ revenue still comes from EMEA, and mostly from Europe. What’s your plan to increase business in other markets, especially in China and India? 


Mr. Dazza: As part of our strategy, we will continue to expand our presence in emerging economies – as reflected with our latest acquisitions - and to develop our industrial assets to follow growing demand in these markets.


Imerys’ presence in China dates back over 20 years, and we presently operate 13 industrial plants in the country, with production dedicated, to a large extent, to the local market. In terms of research and innovation, we have a Technology Center in Tianjin, which serves the refractory markets and complements our 7 other technology centres across the world.


If we look at India, Imerys has over 800 employees located in 16 industrial sites and 8 sales offices across the country.


In 2020, the Group acquired Hysil - India’s market leader in calcium silicate boards used for thermal insulation in the cement, metallurgy, oil refinery, petro-chemical and power industries. The Group has also recently invested in development projects, such as a new refractory plastic line in our Nagpur plant and a new ready-shapes line in Katni. 


A further major project just concluded is the construction of a new Calcium Aluminate greenfield plant in Vizag, for an investment of 40 million euros, which expands our presence in the country and will enable us to provide customers with solutions adapted to their local needs. This site employs 100 people from the local communities, who have been hired and fully trained during the plant’s commissioning phase.


Imerys is therefore well positioned to seize opportunities in these growing geographies, but also in South America, and Middle East, to continue to expand and - probably - better balance its footprint in the future.

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