Imagine that you are presented with a customer need and your job is to resolve with a team how to achieve it – whilst keeping in mind the possibilities afforded by processes and raw material, the costs and the requirements of sustainable development. I consider these kinds of situations as the best aspect of my job as the leader of an R&D team. My team and other experts in our company study different possibilities; we innovate together, and I get to strive with others to find the best possible solution. In these moments, I absolutely love my job!
From a drop to a bucket, from tweezers to a sledgehammer
At Owens Corning Paroc, the global research and development activities are carried out by a 20-member international team of seasoned experts and individuals at the start of their careers. The team members’ different backgrounds are a major asset when diverse visions and experiences support the quest to find strongly innovative solutions. Here at Owens Corning Paroc, we are lucky because we have the use of our own development laboratory and the possibility to do test runs.
Our work is hugely varied, and often, we describe it as scaling from a drop to a bucket or tweezers to a sledgehammer. The timespan of development projects also differs because at times a project lasts a month and at others we talk of years.
Customer needs as the springboard
Customer-orientation and sustainable development are at the heart of our strategy. Thus, it is natural that the motive for our R&D work is customer needs. We innovate and carry out development work in close cooperation with our customers – irrespective of if we are dealing with a one-person business or a large corporation. Whether we are talking about a building or an industrial process, our customers tend to have a clear idea of what the end result should look like and what requirements need to be met, and our task is to help the customer achieve their objectives by developing our products and solutions. Our job is to also help our customers look at their activities from a wider perspective and further into the future and then bring new, sustainable value to them and their businesses.
For example, corrosion caused by moisture under insulation is one of the biggest challenges for industrial special solutions. For over 20 years, we have researched and developed better and better industrial insulation products, which are now in a class of their own when it comes to moisture resistance.
Sustainable development at the core
In addition to customer-orientation, another factor that steers our work is sustainable development and our own ambitious aims related to that, as well as the EU and national legislation which impact both our own and our customers’ operations. Thus, our work includes research and development linked to customers’ products and our own production processes, which are currently driven by a strong aspiration to achieve carbon neutrality. Sometimes these two are closely intertwined. Paroc’s pioneering development and use of the energy efficient, low-emissions electric melting used in the production of stone wool and the carbon neutral PAROC® Natura Lana product, partly enabled by the technique, provide a great example of this.
In addition to carbon neutrality, important sustainable development themes include energy and material efficiency, renewable raw materials and recycling. In our R&D activities, we promote all of these. For example, our aim is to do away with the creation of landfill waste in our own factories, and we are searching for solutions in cooperation with the production plants’ staff to achieve this goal. We have also decided to transfer fully to renewable energy by 2030, which will further support the production of low-carbon products. The solutions we have created to reduce packaging materials, plastic and packing pallets also serve our own and our customers’ sustainable development objectives. We have managed to reduce the use of plastic by 145 tons, which is approximately 7.6 million normal plastic bags.
Gaze in the future
We are closely following what is happening in our sector globally and aim to anticipate what is coming. We participate actively in fairs and conferences – although there has naturally not been much activity on that front recently – and cooperate with for example universities and research institutes.
We want to keep increasing our supply of low-carbon products that conform to sustainable development goals and strengthen the implementation of circular economy in cooperation with our customers. For example, construction waste materials have a lot of potential, and it would be beneficial if they could be utilised. Instead of considering it as waste, we should understand that we are dealing with a valuable raw material with multiple applications and an enabler of innovation. Dreaming about such future opportunities and solutions is an important and inspiring part of the work of product development experts.
Senior R&D Leader