Chasing the sunset

13 June 2021

It was nearly three decades ago when the senior management of Budget Champ Sdn Bhd (BCSB), a specialty chemicals (i.e. formulated chemical products tailored for a specific purpose) manufacturer with roots in the metal finishing and institutional cleaning industries, decided to develop and produce chemicals for the then nascent rubber glove industry in Malaysia. Unsurprisingly, their efforts were met with tremendous skepticism by many of their peers in the chemical industry, who considered the provision of latex products a "sunset" business with little growth potential. Unfazed by these naysayers that specialty chemicals would play an insignificant role in the latex industry, BCSB rallied its R&D team to develop polymer coatings, powder-free anti-tack additives and former cleaners that they believed would one day be embraced by glove manufacturers. The senior management of BCSB at the time made a bold assertion that the latex glove industry would grow and flourish, and that the gloves would evolve to become easy to don and use without the need for allergenic powder coatings or environmentally harmful processes such as chlorination.

The decades that followed showed not only explosive and sustained growth in the latex glove industry (particularly in Malaysia), but also ever-escalating demands on the quality and quantity of the gloves produced. With increasing consumer demand for powder-free and non-chlorinated gloves, BCSB’s gamble paid off. From pioneering efforts in the development of polyester polyurethane based polymer coatings, BCSB quickly transitioned to more user- and cost-friendly polyacrylate based coatings, as embodied by their highly successful Flexicoat product series. Likewise, their anti-tack additives evolved from reducing powder in the coagulant tank to completely eliminating the need for powder altogether. Today, BCSB’s well-established anti-tack CTF series of products fully support the high speed dipping and auto stripping processes required by many high throughput powder-free glove production lines. In fact, the fast production line speeds (>40,000 gloves per hour) and need to reduce operational downtime meant that conventional former cleaners based on potassium hydroxide and sodium hypochlorite, which result in relatively short bath life and high corrosion rates on ceramic formers, were simply inadequate. The NRL series of former cleaners was developed specifically to overcome these drawbacks, enabling a whole new level of efficiency in terms of cleaning, production uptime, former retention and ultimately cost.

Today, BCSB provides all the chemical needs of the rubber glove industry within and beyond the shores of Malaysia, forging close partnerships with glove manufacturers whose scale of operations range from modest to some of the world's largest. While their customer-centric focus, strict adherence to the highest quality standards and utmost commitment to product innovation have been their primary pillars of strength, the in-house formulation of all their products and ability to customize each product to suit the unique requirements of each customer are perhaps their key differentiators in the specialty chemicals market. However, if the senior management of BCSB did not have the vision, courage and resolve to pursue what others thought was a “sunset” industry, there would probably not be a single latex glove today that was produced using any of BCSB’s products.

This article has been featured in MARGMA Q1 2020 (page 35).