Leadership Spotlight: Q&A with Pablo Salazar Merino, CBMM

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SAO PAULO – Pablo Salazar Merino was named Head of Mobility Market for CBMM (Companhia Brasileira de Metalurgia e Mineração), Sao Paulo, this year. Responsibilities include preparing and defining worldwide strategy for promoting and increasing Niobium product use for mobility applications (including automotive, motorbikes, train, ship, bikes and scooters).

In addition, his role includes coordinating the technology program to be aligned with the commercial goals for increasing sales and developing marketing campaigns and strategies for increasing Niobium awareness.

He is involved in the B2B and B2C marketing, communication, and R&D campaigns after a deep analysis of the markets together with the marketing intelligence team and the appraisal of C-Level.

Merino joined CBMM Europe B.V., Amsterdam, in 2010, first as a marketing analyst and then as sales coordinator, followed by a stint with CBMM Asia Pte. Ltd, Singapore, as Senior Commercial Manager.

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Prior to his tenure at CBMM, Merino was a strategist at 97 S&F S.L. of Bilbao, Spain, which provides consultancy services for private companies and public agencies, with added value services in innovation, strategy and management.

What can you tell us about CBMM and the markets you serve?

CBMM is the world leader in technology, production, and supply of Niobium products. Headquartered in Brazil, with offices and subsidiaries in China, the Netherlands, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States, the company provides products and technology to more than 400 customers in 40 countries in the infrastructure, mobility, aerospace and energy sectors.

The main application of Niobium is for more technologically advanced steels. The company exports around 95 percent of the production to North America, Europe and Asia following all the international norms and standards.

What is Niobium and how is it used in the automotive industry?

Niobium can be found in different regions of the world. Niobium products can be obtained by processing pyrochlore and the whole production comprises around 15 different processes. These products are used to improve the properties of steel and its alloys, for example, adding strength and toughness at same time. There are several applications of Niobium in the automotive industry such as in car bodies, chassis, batteries, and brake systems. These applications can benefit the automotive industry in different ways. As mentioned before, Niobium can be added to the steel to increase its properties, which can not only help creating safer but also lighter vehicles components that can lead to lower carbon emissions.

How is Niobium used in brake industry?

A Niobium strategy can be used to bring great results to the gray cast iron used for brakes in all types of vehicles, from small passenger cars to large commercial or mass transit vehicles. In brake discs, Niobium improves the thermomechanical properties of the material, ensuring greater performance and resistance to high temperatures, avoiding so-called fractures in the disc. In brake drums, Niobium brings benefits to the structure of the material, making it more resistant to wear. In both cases there is a longer service life of the brake systems which leads to a lower maintenance cost, which is a major commercial advantage.

What is the major challenge(s) facing your organization now, in the near term and the long term?

Since its creation, CBMM has invested in the development and dissemination of Niobium technology to customers and end users, as well as in the creation of new applications for Niobium. For this, the company has a robust Technology Program, which contributes to the growth and diversification of this market. Annually, between R$ 150 million and R$ 200 million are invested in this program.

To fully serve the world market, CBMM is also investing in expanding the capacity of its factory to 150 thousand tons (bigger than the whole market demand). The expansion project will be completed in 2020 and will start operating in 2021.

In addition, strategic partnerships signed with universities, research centers and international clients have provided the industry with an important legacy of research and innovation in the advanced materials segment.

It is important to highlight Graphene here. To improve material transformation processes and expand research on the synergy between Niobium and Graphene, CBMM invested in 2DM (Two D Materials), a Singapore company dedicated to Graphene technology.

How do you see the industry evolving over the next 5-10 years and do you have any bold predictions for us?

Our Technology Program is becoming more diverse looking for opportunities in other market segments that are not exclusively linked to steel products. We expect that, in 2030, Niobium applications outside the traditional steel applications will account for up to 40 percent of the company’s sales.

Tell us something that most people might not know about you or your organization.

Formula E, an electric car racing series, is a successful example of CBMM’s strategy to promote its Technology Program, linked to vehicle electrification.

The company uses racing as a testing center for new automotive components with Niobium such as batteries, bodies, and brakes.

In this segment, the Company is also a founding supplier of Extreme E, an innovative project that will debut next year, highlighting not only the performance of teams and machine technologies, but also environmental threats in different parts of the world.

The Odyssey 21, SUV of the events, was designed from scratch by the French Spark in partnership with Williams and developed in conjunction with the CBMM and Continental. The car was designed to suit different terrains and extreme climatic conditions in the event spaces.

CBMM took niobium technology to high-strength materials applied, for example, to the chassis, which makes the structure lighter and more resistant and results in energy savings.

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