1970 marked the founding of Kaneka’s subsidiary in Westerlo, Flanders – its very first outside Japan, and the first site of a Japanese chemical firm in Belgium as a whole. Since then, Kaneka has expanded its business and R&D activities in the Flanders region to encompass diverse functional and foamed plastics solutions. The company also sealed a partnership with imec, Flanders’ nanotech research center. Part of a EUR 90-million global investment plan titled ‘Kaneka 2020’, the Japanese firm’s 2017 investment cemented its role as a leading player in high-performance polymers.
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Why Kaneka chose Flanders for one of its largest plants
A series of multimillion-euro investments within the last decade have made Kaneka a firm fixture in the chemistry landscape of Flanders. In 2018, Kaneka expanded its local production capacity of MS polymer – the base resin in high-performing sealants, adhesives and coatings used in the construction, automotive and do-it-yourself (DIY) sectors. Totaling EUR 34 million, the investment went primarily toward adding a third production line. This boosted Kaneka’s output in Westerlo by 50%, enabling the Japanese company to meet growing demand.
Katsutoshi Shichijo, former president of Kaneka Belgium: “The Flanders-based MS polymer manufacturing facility has become the largest of its kind in the group. In addition, we constructed a new raw material storage facility with a capacity of 1,500 m³, and a fully-fledged ship unloading facility to boost our shipping capabilities.”
“With the new line at full capacity, we can keep 900 ADR trucks from the road in favor of more eco-friendly water transport,” adds Jean Vandael, plant general manager of Kaneka Belgium in Westerlo.
Through this investment, our Flanders-based site has become our group’s largest MS polymer manufacturing facility. In addition, we constructed a new raw material storage facility and a fully-fledged ship unloading facility to boost our shipping capabilities.
The location of its factories along the Albert Canal in Flanders has afforded Kaneka important logistical advantages. Local conditions – such as the presence of the shipping route and important road transportation hubs – contribute heavily. So does Flanders’ location at the heart of Europe as well as its highly educated and productive citizens. “The recent investment confirms how important our factories in Flanders are to Kaneka’s ambitions in Europe and beyond,” Vandael elaborates.
Highlighting this major investment, Kaneka was presented with Flanders Investment & Trade’s Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy in 2018.