Specialty chemicals are in just about everything, and there’s a good chance OMNOVA Solutions has a product in your favorite brands.
Change is a constant and an opportunity, not a challenge, at least that’s the way Anne Noonan sees it. The President and Chief Executive Officer of OMNOVA Solutions since December of 2016 has approached change like this since she was a child in Ireland.
She learned her work ethic—as well as the importance of customer satisfaction and doing things better than the competition—from her family at an early age.
“My parents were self-employed. My mother owned the corner deli and made fresh salads every day. I asked her once why we didn’t just use the salads from the day before. She told me to look at the number of customers queuing around the block at lunchtime: ‘They wouldn’t be here without the fresh food,’ she said. I learned value proposition very early on.”
A chemist by training, Noonan has focused on using innovation to drive change in all her professional roles. She has brought timely strategic actions, teamwork, collaboration, and agility to OMNOVA Solutions, and she’s only getting started.
“I’ve been in the specialty chemicals industry for 30 years,” she said. “I’ve seen multiple changes: from the market and regulations to disruptive technology, and always customers want differentiation. When change occurs, we react and pivot to win. These are our top priorities today.”
Much of the company’s business used to come from the tire segment. But over time the company switched gears to cover more of the specialty chemicals market. The business model and organizational structure, however, didn’t reflect the pivot.
This is where Noonan’s transformational change expertise comes in.
She began making changes to the performance chemicals arm of the business when she joined OMNOVA in 2014. After becoming President and CEO of OMNOVA at the end of 2016, she and the rest of the company’s leaders decided it was time to expand these updates to the entire company.
Q2 financial results in 2017 will reflect these changes, the biggest of which is a change in segmentation in business model and financial reporting.
“The key to having an agile foundation is to underpin two business models and streamline corporate functions to support the two businesses,” she said. “I’m a firm believer that complexity is the enemy, particularly for a company our size. We can’t be quick if there’s complexity. The team is working on streamlining processes and systems now.”
The company’s specialty solutions are now regarded as one business entity, including oil and gas solutions, specialty coatings and ingredients, and laminates.
“This segment has higher growth rates and more sustainable earnings. The customers value innovation and marketing excellence,” she explained.
The other segment is the performance materials division.
“This comprises our mature businesses: tire cord, paper, carpet, coated fabrics and other traditional product lines. The focus here is on bottom-line growth, cash generation, and operational excellence.”
This structural change complements OMNOVA’s position in the market perfectly. To the left of the company are large conglomerates; to the right are regional companies with limited tech offerings. OMNOVA fits right in the middle.
“We’re not trying to be enormous, but we do have a global infrastructure and an excellent innovation portfolio in place, which gives us tremendous opportunity. To drive a growth strategy, we have to continue to innovate and be willing to tailor solutions.”
Still not quite sure what OMNOVA’s specialty chemicals are? Well, they’re in just about everything.
The company has a strong offering in healthcare and hygiene markets: its product is used in the world’s leading diaper brands. OMNOVA just launched a polymer-based finishing treatment that will help make diapers and adult undergarments more discreet without surrendering performance. Wipes and medical garments are also in the company’s wheelhouse.
In construction, you’ll find OMNOVA in roofing, sealants, and heavily in the paint and coatings market.
“We help customers address the regulatory and sustainability aspects of the paint and coatings market,” Noonan shared. “There’s a drive for environmentally-preferred technologies in the industry, and we’re excited to have solutions that meet that need while still raising the bar on performance.”
OMNOVA’s fire protectant coating technology is used on steel structures around the world, including venues like Wimbledon Stadium in the U.K. Its film tech is used on floor and wall graphics. Recently the company introduced textured, ink-jet printable films, which were featured heavily at a launch party for a global fashion brand.
In the oil and gas industry, OMNOVA produces additives for high-temperature, high-pressure drilling and exploration. These products reduce non-productive time in high-cost projects.
When you shop your favorite fashions, OMNOVA laminates help create a branded store environment with unique display constructions only possible with the company’s advanced technology.
The company’s products are also underfoot as part of leading carpet and luxury vinyl tile brands, and all around you when you slide into the seat of a luxury car, including the upholstery, window gaskets, belts, hoses, and, of course, the tires.
You will rarely see OMNOVA Solutions’ name on a product, however. The company is committed to helping customers build their brands by including OMNOVA’s technology in it. Many of the company’s customers choose OMNOVA because of its sustainability capabilities.
“Customers value products that have a sustainable component,” Noonan said. “The main thing is that customers are trying to differentiate themselves in often crowded marketplaces. This is one way we can help them do that.”
The major transformational changes are clearly paying off. Noonan shared that the February earnings call revealed that 27 percent of OMNOVA’s revenue is driven by new products. To accomplish this, the focus on innovation shifted.
“We transformed our innovation pipeline: today, it’s almost solely focused on the specialty chemicals market,” she said. “This was a deliberate effort where we cut down the number of programs and upgraded our marketing efforts.
“The specialty market demands innovation, where our traditional segments place a high value on consistent quality and supply. As an organization, we’ve found the right balance between being disciplined to meet our customer’s operational needs and leaving enough room for creativity to help them drive innovation.”
OMNOVA is, without question, in a leading position in many markets and market segments it’s targeting. It’s not the largest but its strong global infrastructure allows the company to leverage its mid-sized specialty chemicals position in the market to create truly incredible products.
Noonan thinks it won’t take too long for the company to finish building the flexible foundation for the business structure for which OMNOVA is aiming.
“It already exists, just not consistently through the whole brand. I think we can move quickly. What will take longer is standardizing all our processes and procedures across the whole business. 2017 is about enhancing our performance, but being quick about it.”
She is looking to expand the company’s specialty market to about 70 percent of OMNOVA’s portfolio in the next five to eight years through organic growth.
A focus on megatrends—including a growing demand in healthcare and aged care, a focus on urbanization and construction, and on developing markets for automotive and in personal care products—are also on the agenda.
Noonan’s guidance throughout OMNOVA Solutions’ continuing transformational change will be imperative to the company's growth success in the specialty chemicals market. With a strong yet flexible business structure and a driver to always help its customers build better brands, there’s no question that the company can sustainably grow, bringing value to customers, employees, and shareholders.
When the world’s top companies (or those aspiring to get there) are looking to create competitive advantage, they come to OMNOVA Solutions. Our technologies, products and services deliver distinctive performance features, thus helping to support our Customers’ reputations for trusted brands around the globe and in a wide variety of markets.
We start with curiosity: Probing to develop a deep understanding of the unmet needs of our Customers…We add collaboration: Working with Customers to find the right solution for their application instead of an off-the-shelf, me-too, anything-will-do kind of product…Then we draw upon our deep expertise in polymer, specialty chemical and material science, broad scale-up and manufacturing capabilities, and global delivery options to provide a product or service that consistently meets our Customers’—and their Customers’—expectations.
We bring our solutions to a global marketplace, serving more than 90 countries from operations in North America, Europe and Asia, and technology centers in all three regions as well.