Excitement and energy 'Cristalises' for new site director Rob

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 15 Dec 2015

A FIRST UK posting has seen Australian Rob Sarracini become the new site director at Cristal's Stallingborough plant.

The chemical engineer has been with the Saudi Arabian giant for 14 years, and has arrived on the South Humber Bank after stints in the Middle East and Houston, Texas.

Sustainability as a standalone site is a key goal as a challenging period in the 62-year-old manufacturing lifetime continues to be endured by the 300-plus staff.

Mr Sarracini has been impressed with the welcome he has received, and is confident the team is up for the task in hand, delighted with the response to some of the toughest issues a business can face.

"I am loving it. The people have been wonderful, there are a lot of challenges, but there is a lot of excitement and energy," he said.

He arrived two months ago, following the resignation of Jamie Scott and temporary leadership of Scott Strayer, who split his time between Stallingborough and the US in the interim period.

Around 60 redundancies are being phased through, having been announced at the start of the year, with low prices and a weak market cited as the drivers behind the restructure.

"The cost challenge is our current focus, but what I see ahead is an exciting challenge. At the moment business is very tough, not just for us, but for the whole industry. What we are really focusing on is a cost pressure on this site that has been there for a very long time. We are starting a strategic review to see how to take us from where we are now to how we build a world class site, which is where we want to be in a couple of years. If we do this properly, we can be stronger for the future."

The 160-hectare site has an annual capacity for production of 150,000 tonnes of titanium dioxide, a white pigment used in the manufacture of many consumer products, from paints to plastics and décor paper.

The vast majority of the products produced at Stallingborough are destined for European markets, which are sluggish, while adding a further exchange rate issue, compounded by the fact the business trades in dollars.

"The market globally has been soft for a while, and there is impact from new plants in China and Mexico," Mr Sarracini said. "It is an industry used to downturns but this is much longer and more sustained than we have seen in recent times."

All that is in the management team's powers will now be examined. "We can only control what we are able to control," he said. "We are looking at efficiency, we are looking at costs, and having great discussions with major suppliers who are working really collaboratively with us. It is not just about reducing cost, but doing things smarter, and in a more efficient way. It is asking 'what can we do differently?'. Our attitude is that there is no sacred cow, everything is there to be looked at, and from every angle. A lot of TiO2 suppliers are feeling the pinch, we are no lone orphan with what is going on at present."

Originally from Perth, he joined Cristal in Australia, before moving to the US to work on a new plant development. Married with two children, he has now moved to the Caistor-area.

"We are settling in really well and enjoying the lifestyle change," he added.

Mr Sarracini is a strong believer in the work of the Cristal charity committee too.

"Even when we are scrutinising all of our costs, we are still committed to looking after our community wherever and whenever we can," he added.

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