Main Reaction - The TFL Blog | May 2019
Now I am in my 50's and can look back to almost 35 years working in this, interesting and challenging industry. Since I joined the trade, the word was out : "Consolidation" and in fact I saw many tanneries disappear in 3 decades , especially in northern Europe.
Crises came and went and some stayed, as we are currently again in stormy weather with raw hides prices and leather demand on an extremely low level.
Probably one might think these are not the best conditions for new investments, technologies and innovations. But when if not now? When is the probability higher to try new technologies and take a look outside the box of what we used to do?
Since I was a young and inexperienced tanner I was annoyed by statements such as: "We always did it this way ", "Don't waste your time… it will not work ", "Don't try to reinvent the wheel."
I am still getting frustrated today by such statements as they can kill all motivation for being innovative. Here at TFL I found a place where I am allowed to stay curious. In fact it is a part of my job and I was always supported in this. In our new Wet-end R&D Facilities here in Muttenz we have the chance and the conditions to try beside the standard screening activities, "things" which are outside the normal mainstream of applications.
With close contact to the R&D chemists and key sales technicians out in the field, we have a network within TFL where new demands and ideas can meet. This does not work without intense discussions and exchange of arguments. But it provides the chance to start doing things differently and leave beaten tracks towards real innovations without remaining as R&D in the ivory tower.
So what are the news and challenges for applications?
Some of the current projects are providing new possibilities to introduce a range of sustainable biochemistry based products, never applied on leather before. I have big hopes in these developments as they are showing some really interesting and new performance and help to improve the environmental performance of our Wet-end process by increasing biodegradability and non-toxic profile. This goes beyond green washing marketing strategies we see so often - we are talking facts.
Another project will focus on alternative tanning methods based on renewable regional raw material were we intent to provide alternatives to existing system with significant lower impact on the environment, rain forests and CO2 emissions. There is a mountain of work in front of us in exploring the best possible applications, but these are for me some of the most exiting projects I have worked on so far. And yes, I am extremely curious on the things we will discover.
But there are also much more down to earth developments and applications which surprise me and make me curious to find out more about it. For example we tested the combination of cationic fixation agents with the zirconium based tanning agent TANNESCO® CPR Liq . Well, bluntly speaking we expected nothing special, but were surprised that both products can be combined and applied with really interesting effects in dye levelness and improving colour build up significantly. Using this combinations after a "pre shrinkage" with the new developed SELLATAN® HIT Liq we saw on different wet blue and wet white material extremely nice and levelled dyeings and uniform natural milling pattern. Also the stretch even on soft leathers was noticeable reduced. If I would have seen this application formulation 10 years ago, I would probably think this was made by a crazy alchemist.
Doing this strange application on safe ground in your pilot tannery is one thing, convincing colleagues to try this at the customers another. For this you need to have relationships which are built on trust and colleagues which are curious to try new things.
I am very happy to have such colleagues and customers who think the same and are willing to take a certain risk in the search for the best possible result.
So please stay courageous and curious, the next innovation might be just around the corner.