Chemistry and cooperation: solving problems through innovation
Buckman may specialize in some of the industry's most complex chemical solutions, but the basic mandate of the 67-year old company isn't based on rocket science: Buckman just focuses on what it does best.
No one knows how important this is more than Davor Mehes, VP and General Manager of Sales for all of Buckman's divisions. Mehes credits the company with actively involved private ownership who understands the business and upholds its core values in challenging times. With a tried, tested and true formula of consistently meeting and exceeding customer needs, Buckman doesn't peddle chemistry alone – it cooperates with its customers and creates innovative, chemistry-based solutions to problems.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself? Where were you born? What is your background?
Davor: I was born and raised in Sudbury, Ontario and I studied Chemistry at Laurentian University. After a short two years working in mining R&D for Texas Gulf Mining in Timmins Ontario I joined Buckman in 1982 as the local Area Representative in North-Eastern Ontario and North-Western Quebec. I have moved through several roles and now hold the role of Vice President and General Manager – Sales for all divisions (Paper Technologies, Water Treatment, Performance Chemicals, etc) for Buckman Canada.
On a personal note, what are some of your interests, hobbies? What keeps you busy when you aren't at work?
Davor: I really enjoy cycling, and try to combine it with travel – I think they call that cyclo-tourism! I also do a fair bit of camping, and I enjoy photography.
Buckman Canadian Office
If you had to characterize Buckman's business in just a few lines, how would you do that?
Davor: Buckman is a global specialty chemical manufacturer and solutions supplier and we serve customers in more than 90 countries. We have offices, manufacturing sites and technical facilities located all over the world, with Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Chile, Europe, India, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa and the U.S. as examples. We're committed to the idea that chemistry not only solves problems, it creates new opportunities. We're customer-focused, working hands-on and on-site, improving processes, applying new chemistries and creating advantages for our customers in a wide variety of industries. Our engineers are embedded in our customer accounts. Sometimes a representative could spend five days a week in one location and we measure our results based on what the customer achieves.
Full Service Company:
What proportion of your business does the forestry sector represent?
Davor: We're heavily committed to the forestry sector. Paper, pulp, tissue and packaging represent more than half of our business in Canada, and globally. When we started out 67 years ago, we were a company that primarily served the pulp and paper industry. This hasn't changed.
What are some of Buckman's key attributes?
Davor: Customer intimacy is a true reflection of our business. We don't sell chemicals to our customers – we sell chemical performance and solutions. We're very proud of our culture of innovation. Because we're a privately-owned company, we operate in a way that allows us to respond very quickly to changes in the marketplace. We focus on what we're good at.
What do you consider to be Buckman's key challenges going forward? How have a high value of the Canadian dollar, declining returns on investment, the strengthening of competitor markets and industry regulation impacted the company?
Davor: With every challenge comes opportunity. We are inextricably tied to the health and success of our customers. When our customers curtail production in Canada we suffer the consequences along with them. By listening and responding to our customers' ever-changing needs we have continued to grow market share. There is a lot of demand from our customers for us to help them do pulp, paper, tissue and packaging grade development which challenges us even further to deliver new products and application technologies. We continue to be a full service provider for all pulp and paper market segments, and we supply our customers' needs from 'water-in to water-out.' By clearly communicating their needs, our customers have an opportunity to influence where we invest our product development energies. Just as an example of this, a market push for more strength in packaging products or more softness in tissue products has driven us to develop new technologies to meet these new demands.
What about the environment? How important is responsible stewardship of the environment to Buckman and its business?
Davor: Since 1945, green has been our corporate color. Today "Buckman Green" is our commitment to a sustainable future. We believe commitment makes the best chemistry and the most important commitment we can make is to a sustainable future. We know it isn't just good for the planet; it's also good for business. And we know it isn't just about the environment; it's about people too. Buckman Green is a comprehensive approach to environmental stewardship, social leadership, and financial responsibility. Increasingly, society and our customers are placing greater importance on sustainability and we intend to play a leadership role in helping our customers meet their own Sustainability goals.
Team Approach to Problem Solving:
How important is marketing to Buckman?
Davor: Most of our marketing energies are invested by our technical representatives locally within our customers' operations to produce measurable results with a solid return on investment. We generate our business through direct contact with the customer. Bring us a problem and we'll solve it. Then bring us another – its organic growth.
Does Buckman anticipate making any major capital expenditures or acquisitions in the next five years?
Davor: We're capable of supplying all of our customer's needs through our current infrastructure so there are no plans for any large capital projects in the next five years. Unlike our customers, a very large proportion of our total capital assets are located in our customer accounts, in chemical feed and monitoring equipment.
What advantages do private ownership offer Buckman?
Davor: Buckman's owners have been actively involved in the operation of our company for three generations, and so they understand the business and are prepared to weather the challenges of a difficult quarter and stay focused on established priorities for the long term good of the company.
Paperadvance also spoke with Buckman Canada's General Manager of Operations, Ihab Wassef, and Kevin MacDonald, Director of Paper Technologies - Technical Marketing, to get a sense of the operational and technical components of the business.
How has a demand for energy savings impacted your business from the perspectives of research and development and investment?
Ihab: Energy efficiency is one of the key components for the development of a sustainable future. We feel that to truly drive change on energy use, we need to be accountable. To that end, Buckman decided to participate in the GRI (Global Reporting Initiative), in which we committed to providing a GRI certified public report. We have produced our first GRI Sustainability Report for 2010 and have made it available to the public. Buckman's Sustainability Effort will continue to be a key focus for the global company.
In order to be successful at meeting this new level of global accountability with respect to energy use and other sustainable elements, as an organization we found that it has become critical to develop a stronger level of cooperation among Buckman operating companies, our customers and our business partners. This cooperative spirit will be key in continuing to drive forward our sustainability and energy efficiency programs.
Can you speak to the recent awarding of the Presidential Green Chemistry award? What is the Maximyze technology, and how has it impacted your business?
Ihab and Kevin: The Maximyze product line is a continuation of our development of biotechnology, specifically for the paper industry. This enzyme technology works by changing the refining window of cellulose fibre. This allows our customers to do a variety of things from energy reduction and fibre substitution, to increased ash loading in the sheet. These benefits can be directly used by the customer for grade development or lower overall cost of operations. On our side, it affects our business by being able to provide more sustainable and greener solutions for our customers by reducing our dependence on chemistries that are based on hydrocarbons. We continue to find new applications and processes for the application of Maximyze so it positively affects our customers' bottom line and the carbon footprint of both Buckman and the paper mill.
To learn more, visit www.buckman.com