BÜFA gears up for the challenges of the coming years

Oldenburg-based chemical company drives internationalization with takeovers and investments in European companies

So far in 2022, BÜFA has coped well with the difficulties resulting from the Corona crisis. Both the availability of goods and the supply chains have continued to stabilize. Together with reliable suppliers, the Oldenburg-based chemical company's purchasing and procurement management has been able to consistently supply its customers with raw materials, products and services throughout the Corona pandemic.

With the war of aggression against Ukraine, the energy crisis and high inflation, BÜFA is currently facing major challenges again. To equip BÜFA for this, the company is not only initiating energy-saving measures in the short term, but is also securing its future viability by acquiring other companies and investing in digitalization and innovation.

"In 2022, we held our ground very solidly in a difficult environment, even better than the German market as a whole," says Felix Thalmann, Chairman and CEO of the BÜFA Group, summarizing the current situation. "We have recorded a pleasing sales and earnings performance in the current fiscal year, which has also been influenced by the good availability of raw materials," adds Commercial Managing Director Ralf Ramke. Consolidated group sales of the BÜFA Group increased by 23 percent to EUR 313 million in the first three quarters. The accumulated result is slightly above the previous year's level.

Nevertheless, global markets remain volatile and earnings are still under pressure. "Based on the general forecast for 2023 that Germany's economic strength will decline, we expect that, among other things, further increases in energy costs and global economic uncertainties will weigh on BÜFA's cost and earnings side," Ramke provides an outlook. In 2022 alone, therefore, producer prices have also risen sharply, among other things: High energy costs have made the production of basic raw materials more than 20 percent more expensive.

"However, we will also cope well with these difficult tasks that now lie ahead, so that the number of jobs in the BÜFA Group is expected to remain stable," Thalmann is certain. For example, he said, BÜFA is investing in new, energy-efficient plants and installing renewable energy sources at the sites themselves. "It is absolutely essential here that the expansion of renewable energy is accelerated by simpler regulatory framework conditions and faster approval procedures," Thalmann emphasizes.

At the same time, short-term measures have been taken to save energy and contain costs. In addition to installing high-speed doors to keep more heat in the storage and production areas, motion detectors have been installed in the laboratory areas to reduce power consumption, the battery chargers of the electric forklifts have been replaced with more powerful ones, or pre- and post-run operating times have been adjusted. In addition, exhaust air purification is optimized by installing a modern incineration system in autothermal operation, i.e., without external energy supply. In this process, the exhaust air or process and room air from production is no longer simply burned and emitted: the exhaust air is concentrated, fed to the regenerative afterburning system, and excess heat can be recovered as energy or heat in combination with other systems, such as heat exchangers.

In addition, the Oldenburg-based family business is sticking to its digitization and innovation plans regardless of current developments and is consistently pushing ahead with its internationalization plans. The acquisition of the Dutch company TriStar in July of this year is just the first step for BÜFA. With TriStar as a manufacturer of industrial cleaning products and specialist in contract manufacturing and private labeling, the Cleaning business unit is on the one hand expanding its product portfolio and on the other hand opening up further markets in Europe. The expansion also secures BÜFA's location in Oldenburg-Ohmstede, explains Thalmann. In addition, further cooperations are being considered and the Oldenburg-based chemical company is in talks. Just recently, BÜFA also signed a minority stake in the Dutch startup Ferr-Tech. The startup produces ferrate(VI) in a stable and ready-to-use form for the purification of wastewater and reuse of water in industry. This has not been possible before and Ferr-Tech has succeeded in a unique process. The partnership offers BÜFA the opportunity to expand its position in the specialty chemicals sector. At the same time, Germany is an important sales market for this innovative and sustainable solution. Areas of application for the Fer-Sol® product include plastics recycling and the metal industry. The wastewater generated in industrial processes can be treated efficiently and in an environmentally friendly manner with FerSol®, almost completely replacing conventional chemicals. The purified, antibacterial water can then be reused by the manufacturing plants instead of being disposed of. "As a family-owned company, BÜFA pursues a strategic long-term view and sustainability, but always with an eye on young innovators whose ideas fit well into our business areas. The investment in Ferr-Tech is another important building block for this," explains Thalmann.