When Solmax announced its acquisition of GSE Environmental in December 2017, the geosynthetics field and containment market professionals were unsure of how to interpret the move. Both companies were seen as giants in the world market, but GSE was perceived to be the larger entity. While they both had similar corporate cultures from a quality and innovation perspective, they had developed their own ways over decades of operating side by side as competitors.
Jacques Côté founded Solmax in 1981 and, with the help of Vangeluwe, who joined in 1997, grew the business from distribution to installation and manufacture of geotextile and erosion control systems. By 2017, the company was rated number three in the geosynthetics industry and known the world over for containment materials. GSE’s history stretched back to Schlegel Lining Technology and Gundle Lining Systems, which pioneered the first high-density polyethylene (HDPE) geomembrane product in 1972.
At the time of the acquisition, Solmax President and CEO Jean-Louis Vangeluwe sat down with Geosynthetica for a video interview to discuss blending the two entities.
It was a large task, to be sure, Vangeluwe notes, but it was not a unique challenge. To Vangeluwe, it was simply growth.
“We actually want to transform the geo industry,” he said in the interview. “We do not believe in a cost-leadership strategy for the future. This is the same for any industry in the world: tvs, smartphones, whatever. There comes a moment when you need to innovate either on process or product. … [In this case,] we didn’t want to do it alone. We wanted to do it with another company that really brings a critical size so we can actually have an impact on the industry.”
Throughout 2018, many in the field saw a blended brand: Solmax-GSE. It was a transitional stage that the combined companies used as global operations centers were re-evaluated, teams merged or given complementary missions, facility operations shifted into a unified approach, etc.
Today, company is ready to move forward under a single global brand: Solmax.
GLOBAL BRAND, TRANSITION & FUTURE
“[The Solmax brand] combines two well-structured businesses with similar cultures, an abundance of talent and knowhow, and a shared mission,” says Vangeluwe in a statement on the name. “To help protect the planet—our immense wealth of water, soil and air—[and to create] value for people and nature.”
The integration process continues, but Vangeluwe notes that the benefits of bringing the two companies together quickly revealed themselves and benefits continue to emerge.
In the first phase, teams evaluated and began integrating knowledge, objectives, and skills. The process, which went quicker than perhaps expected, extended the global brand while instilling value chain advantages. The combined resources and team and manufacturing center agility enhanced research and development to quickly commercialize and scale new innovations, products, and services.
“Solmax now has an extended manufacturing presence in North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East;” Vangeluwe says. “[We have] better access to raw materials and the industry clout to help raise standards and drive innovation to meet more stringent environmental requirements.”
Ultimately, the marriage of Solmax and GSE is achieving the larger industry change Vangeluwe discussed in his December 2017 interview.
“The reality is that there is no stopping human endeavor – industry, mining and human activity negatively impact our natural environment and create waste products that are harmful,” says Vangeluwe. “Solmax’s mission is to continuously innovate, creating state-of-the-art products and services that can help protect the earth—products that are highly resistant to contaminants, reliable, accessible in price to all countries, even developing countries, and meet stringent regulations.”
“We want to shake the industry up,” he says. “Get everyone thinking this way.”
In a new campaign, the company seeks to do just that, asking everyone to “Aim for the Sky. We’ve Got the Ground Covered.”
“[This mission] requires collective action by all stakeholders, from geosynthetics players to governments, supply chain partners and our customers in mining, energy, civil engineering, water and waste management,” Vangeluwe says.
The company’s next step is to reposition the new Solmax global brand across all its territories.
Learn more about Solmax, its geosynthetics, its global production centers, and more at www.solmax.com.