PolyOne designs and colors its global strategy

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PolyOne Corp. PolyOne, Xindao and XD Design worked together to create the Sunshine Solar Charger, a flower-shaped array of five solar cells that can charge cell phones and digital tablets.

GUANGZHOU, CHINA — PolyOne Corp. officials at Chinaplas launched a new color and design services business, highlighted recent applications of some of its products — from biopolymers to PET packaging additives — and discussed the firm's two recent major acquisitions of ColorMatrix Corp. and Spartech Corp.
Design once again is providing a cornerstone for strategic development for the $2.99 billion compounder and specialized polymers provider. At a May 20 media event, PolyOne unveiled its new InVisiO color and design services, which the firm said aims to help brand managers and designers evaluate color and design alternatives to accelerate the product development process. Tailored to private labels and brand owners, the service also can "strengthen brand equity and build marketplace excitement," according to Fernando Sanchez, [Luxembourg-based] global marketing director for PolyOne Color and Additives.
The name InVisiO is drawn from three components. Sanchez described the following aspects of those elements:

  • Insights — color forecasts and trend predictions, market studies, and design possibilities with different materials, colors, textures and forms;
  • Vision — the interaction of color, texture and special effects within a product's design, color portfolio management, and color consulting and development expertise;
  • Intelligent operations — help with finding the best liquid or solid colorant for a given application, and design development via 3-D prototyping, tooling, testing, process optimization and operational support.

The company launched a related website (www.invisiocolor.com) the week prior to Chinaplas, and also rolled out a new, downloadable iPad application. It said InVisiO services are designed to support markets from packaging and electronics to appliances, consumer goods, and building and construction.
And it noted that customers who use these new services also will have access to the 12 PolyOne Innovation Centers around the world. One of those — at the company's headquarters in Avon Lake, Ohio — invested last year in 3-D printing capabilities, and the firm intends to install 3-D printers in more of its innovation centers going forward, according to Mark Crist, PolyOne's Asia vice president.
PolyOne's design centers and InVisiO service fit in nicely with the IQ PKG (www.iqpkg.com) group it acquired via the Spartech purchase. An integrated, in-house design service, IQ PKG aims to create innovative package designs that enhance the price-value relationship of customer's products, with a focus on aesthetics, functionality and sustainability.
In another design-focused effort, PolyOne highlighted its global collaboration with the Dutch firm Xindao and its Shanghai-based design studio XD Design. The three companies worked together in China, Europe and the United States to boost the content of renewable resources within the new XD Design Sunshine Solar Charger — a flower-shaped array of five solar cells that can charge cell phones and digital tablets.
The team ended up developing all the molded casing components for the charger from a custom-developed reSound biopolymer, which Xindao estimates will reduce the carbon footprint for the product by as much as 35 percent compared with alternative materials. The firm previously used ABS resin for the casings.

Ryan McSorley, head designer at XD Design, said: "We want our end users to have fun interacting with these products. We also want the chargers to be long-lasting, and as sustainable as possible." Based in Rijswijk, the Netherlands, Xindao has won seven of Germany's Red Dot design awards, and maintains design and manufacturing resources in China.
Also on May 20, PolyOne's ColorMatrix subsidiary launched AmoSorb Plus, a high-performance oxygen-scavenging additive for PET packaging. The product is said to enhance container clarity with the aim of helping customers achieve aesthetic and recyclability goals. Because it is based on a previously approved technology, AmoSorb Plus does not require the regulatory approvals of a completely new material.
The product is a crystallized PET-based concentrate with a built-in catalyst to promote oxidation. Colormatrix says it offers product protection for non-carbonated foods and beverages such as teas and fresh fruit juices for up to six months or longer, depending on the container design.
Speaking to the $486 million acquisition of liquid colorants specialist ColorMatrix in late 2011, Crist said the operations were "easy to integrate" into PolyOne. He noted that the two firms had only about a 5 percent overlap in customers in the color business, between ColorMatrix's liquid colorants and PolyOne's color masterbatches. The transition was eased by the fact that ColorMatrix was "truly global," even before the deal, Crist said.
He also commented on PolyOne's $393 million purchase last fall of compounder and sheet extruder Spartech Corp. That business, which brought $1.2 billion in revenue to PolyOne's top line, has been rebranded as Design Structures & Solutions (DSS). The former Spartech was primarily a North American business before.
"With PolyOne's global footprint," Crist noted, "we see an incredible opportunity to take their [… solutions …] and exploit them on a global scale." That said, there is still much work to be done in North America, he said, before the DSS technologies can be aggressively expanded abroad.
The Spartech deal officially closed only in mid-March, so Crist — who also is PolyOne's VP of global key accounts – said they have had to wait before they could start addressing demands from customers outside of North America for access to the unit's thermoformed sheets.
As for the perception that acquiring a sheet thermoformer would vault PolyOne into competition with some of its processor customers, Crist acknowledged that "conventional wisdom" would lead one to believe that such a deal would be fraught with conflicts of interest. But, in fact, he said, "we found very little overlap, and more synergies than conflict."
Finally, Crist hinted, PolyOne is not done being the aggressor. "We are not stopping our acquisition hunt after Spartech," he said. "This is an attractive area."