Ann O'Hara likes to assemble a business, whether it's integrating an acquired company or organizing a spin off.
The vice president and general manager of diversified products for Amcor Rigid Plastics has plenty to be happy about. She helped pave the way for one of the packaging industry's biggest mergers in 2010 when Amcor bought portions of Alcan Packaging. More recently, she helped generate the LiquiForm licensing business for Amcor.
"I love creating and running a business," O'Hara said in a phone interview. "It's a way to collect the best people, like assembling an Olympic team."
O'Hara got the knack for mergers and acquisitions early in her career when she was a management consultant for McKinsey & Co. starting in 1999. Pregnancy at that time restricted her traveling so she took on M&A work, which could accommodate her shortened travel load.
That experience paid off when Amcor, then an $8 billion per year company, bought $4 billion worth of a packaging business that Alcan was jettisoning. Integrating the acquired diverse operations into Amcor's own business was a challenge.
"I pulled together a strong team of Amcor and Alcan resources to pre-integrate sales, procurement, talent and IT to ensure the joint team remained excited and ready to become one team," O'Hara said.
"It was rewarding because the secret to success was getting the hard work done [data integration, strategy development] all the while creating opportunities for our teams to connect the soft skills — team building, best practice swapping, rolling out 'The Amcor Way' and two-way communications."
O'Hara said that complex integration was her greatest achievement to date.
While at Amcor, O'Hara also strengthened Amcor's flexible packaging business in Australia and New Zealand and helped in the integration of three complementary acquisitions there. And when Amcor wanted to capitalize on a new technology it developed called LiquiForm, it called on her again.
O'Hara developed a licensing model for LiquiForm, a method of forming a molded plastic container using liquid instead of compressed air.
"It is interesting because it is a game-changer," O'Hara explained.
"Beyond saving on energy and space, it changes the nature of the packaging and customer relationship and allows for new container filling supply chains."
O'Hara's education — a chemical engineering degree from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Harvard — laid the groundwork to take on other roles in business as well. Prior to Amcor, she was a product development manager at consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble and a general manager in health care and life sciences at General Electric Co. These postings and her employment at Amcor transported her to several countries, gaining her experience in different global markets.
That international exposure also enriches O'Hara's personal life. One of her favorite ways of winding down is to take in a movie or dine out with family in Ann Arbor's diverse culinary scene. As home base for the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor offers an array of restaurants inspired by its mix of students from around the world.
O'Hara says joining the plastics industry can be a fulfilling career path.
"Become well-rounded across different parts of the plastics supply chain from upstream to conversion and across different functions like R&D, sales, quality, manufacturing and general management," she advises.
"This next generation is known for its desire to explore, so take advantage of not having to specialize too early in your career."