GREENVILLE, S.C.—From humble beginnings to a worldwide power, Bostik S.A. has come a long way in 125 years, and the firm hopes to be around for 125 more.
Bob Marquette, president and CEO of Bostik Inc.—the firm's North American business unit—and senior vice president of Bostik, detailed the firm's history and future plans for growth in his keynote address at the 2014 Adhesive and Sealant Council Fall Convention and Expo in Greenville.
“Bostik is a microcosm of a lot of other companies in this room and really the adhesives industry in general,” Marquette said. “Many of us started off in one thing, and as the industry changes and evolves, our companies have changed.”
The firm is positioning itself for sustained success through a number of activities. In the Americas, Bostik recently consolidated all of its research and development activities in-to its North American head-quar-ters in Milwaukee.
The process began in 2011, which involved relocating as many employees as possible from Philadelphia and Boston, and culminated with an expanded center in 2013. During an interview following his presentation, Marquette said the firm invested more than $10 million in the renovation process—which included renovating open space for expanded research and development in addition to purchasing new equipment.
“Our customers can come to this location, run trials with our adhesives and their substrates, and make prototypes of the materials they're going to be making in their production lots,” Marquette said.
Bostik has several expansions planned—all targeted at its hot melt pressure sensitive adhesives business. It will move into a new site in Monterrey, Mexico, that will double its capacity to 20,000 metric tons in the first phase, projected for first quarter 2016. Marquette said the firm has the ability to scale up from there.
Worldwide, Marquette said the firm opened a new hot melt pressure sensitive adhesives plant in China in 2013 and is getting ready to commercialize another in India for the first quarter of 2015.
In North America, Marquette said over the next two to four years, the firm sees the rebounding of the housing market as providing growth opportunity for the firm, especially in elastic bonding technology for flooring applications.
“Hot melt pressure sensitive adhesives is one of our technology pillars,” Marquette said. “It's a technology where we have a lot of depth and breadth of expertise. I think it's one we continue to see as being a leading growth technology for us into a number of industries.”
Marquette said Bostik started in the shoe industry, producing leather colorings and dyes for the shoe market under the name Boston Blacking Co. As adhesives revolutionized the shoe industry in the 1960s, Marquette said Bostik changed its business model.
“It's not as much about survival of the fittest as it is about those who are willing to adapt,” Marquette said, “adapt to the changes that we all see in our market, that we all see in the world. Our ability to adapt makes it possible for us to exist for 125 years.”
Marquette said the firm's concentration on the shoe industry allowed it to evolve and bring in other adhesives solutions for other markets—such as flexible packaging and automotive interiors.
Now, Marquette said Bostik has three main technology platforms—compounds for tiling to flooring, which is a non-rubber segment; pressure sensitive adhesives with synthetic rubbers; and elastic bonding using modified urethane technology.
Worldwide, Marquette said the firm's business is about split evenly from construction adhesives and industrial products. Bostik Americas operates 16 facilities and employs 1,200 in five countries.
Marquette cited the bottled water industry as one that's doing a tremendous job of creating value through its various brands. Marquette said when he enters a store, he sees a number of different prices of bottled water successfully competing with free water from the water fountain.
“Maybe my taste buds are dead, but I can't tell the difference between one or the other,” Marquette said. “But those companies are creating tremendous value through their brand in the way of bottled water.”
Bostik wanted to differentiate itself about three years ago and that started with introducing the gecko logo. Marquette said it was chosen because of its ability to adhere to different surfaces, bonding and de-bonding, and its ability to walk on wet glass upside down.
“We wanted to make sure that the name itself caught someone's eye,” Marquette said.
“We want to bring smart technical solutions to our customers that go beyond just gluing things together. The gecko seemed to be a natural fit because of its ability to do magical things.”
Marquette said the brand is more effective in Europe where the firm is more involved in the do-it-yourself marketplace for consumer-type products. Customers there may see the Bostik logo at a soccer match.
“We're not as well known on the consumer side of the business in North America,” Marquette said. “Our business is more with industrial customers. We have to build up our brand recognition more by the solutions we provide.”