When one looks at the many types of stakeholders in the adhesives and sealants industry, it becomes readily apparent why this industry is important to the world. The industries that are most affected by adhesives and sealants consist of five main categories:
- Base material producers including resins, mineral fillers, extenders, etc.;
- Formulators who take the base materials and combine, process, and package adhesive and sealant systems that provide various levels of performance;
- Manufacturers (users of adhesives and sealants) who take the packaged products and produce assembled products;
- End-Users customers who benefit from the value of the finished product, and
- Associated industries such as equipment manufacturers, testing laboratories, consultants, etc.
The base material producers are usually large chemical or material companies that manufacture materials for broader markets such as petrochemicals or plastics. When demand warrants, they will produce materials specifically for the adhesives and sealant formulators. However, within the chemical industry the adhesives and sealants industry represents only about 1% of the total market. As a result, much of the direct innovation and service in the adhesives and sealants industry comes from the formulator rather than the raw material suppliers.
The formulators can range from very small businesses with several employees, addressing small niche markets, to large international companies with several hundred products. More than 1,500 manufacturers world wide offer a variety of not less than a quarter million different adhesives and sealants. 1
Formulators have a significant knowledge base regarding adhesive or sealant systems and how they are to be applied in practice. Both small and large formulators are generally willing to modify a formulation if they believe that it will improve a customer's performance, production efficiency, or add some other value. However, a minimum volume is usually necessary before formulators will make modifications to a standard formulation or develop a new product for a specific application.
Some experts in the industry believe that adhesives and sealants may follow the course of the chemical industry, which seems to be split into two groups - one consisting of commodity chemicals and the other built on niche, high-tech and high-profit specialty chemicals.
The end-user must select the proper adhesive or sealant, substrate, joint design, and processing conditions for specific applications. Once these are selected and verified as to performance and cost, the end-user must be vigilant that none of the processes, materials, or other relevant factors change.
Sometimes the end-user is also the formulator. This is especially true in large volume or specialized industries. However, the trend today is to out-source formulation and packaging of adhesives and sealants to the many suppliers of these specific products. It is also increasingly difficult for an end-user to keep up with the continuing technological changes in adhesives and sealants.
Several other industries are also greatly affected by adhesives and sealants. For example, equipment suppliers specialize in producing machinery for application, assembly, curing, surface preparation, etc. Also certain equipment suppliers specialize in testing apparatus that can be used to measure joint strength and process parameters. Then, there are testing laboratories and consultants who provide assistance and services on a contractual basis.
"The European Adhesives and Sealants Industry: A Global Perspective", FEICA, Association of European Adhesives Manufacturers, January 11, 2005.