Back in 2012 when Pierre Boulet joined Mecaplast Group as CEO, he knew he was in for a challenge. The French automotive plastics supplier, now known as Novares, had significant cashflow problems and financial difficulties. However, with more than 25 years’ experience in the automotive industry, Pierre was confident he could overhaul the business.

“I embraced the challenge to turn around the company. That was something exciting for me. I didn’t know how to do it, but I knew there should be a way,” he reflects.

“The first step was to fix the cashflow, because we were burning €200,000 per week, so that was a big drain. We needed to make a profit, and to do that we had to stop bleeding the cash we made. Once our finances were back on track, we turned our attention to innovation and started to look at expansion, as well as finding new shareholders.”

A big turning point for Mecaplast came in 2016, when private investment firm Equistone Partners Europe became majority shareholder. This investment gave Mecaplast a strong financial position, allowing Pierre to focus on developing its commercial and industrial footprint internationally, as well as strengthening its capacity for innovation.

Later that year, Mecaplast acquired Michigan-based competitor, Key Plastics. The merger allowed Mecaplast to expand into important markets including the US, Germany and China, gaining a new customer base in the process. The company was rebranded as Novares in 2017.

 

What’s in a name?

The name Novares is derived from two Latin words. Nova means “new” and relates to the company’s focus on innovation. Res means “fact”, which refers to the pragmatic, tangible solutions Novares develops to meet customer demands.

Today, Novares is a global plastics solutions provider that designs and manufactures innovative components and systems for the ever-evolving automotive industry, particularly those that help make vehicles lighter, produce less carbon emissions and provide more user-friendly interfaces. The company’s headquarters are in France and, with the integration of US company MPC in early 2019, the business now employs more than 12,000 people around the world for a turnover of €1.5 billion.

While Pierre is proud of all he’s achieved at Novares in the past seven years, he insists it was a team effort. “Our employees are our most important asset. It’s so important in our industry to have a strong team, and for those people to be passionate about their jobs,” he says.

“Teamwork is what makes the difference at Novares, that’s for sure. Each person is bringing their own ideas to the table and we can build on these ideas together and help each other achieve our goals. We are all passionate about what we do.

“There are so many companies in the automotive world and the most successful have a passionate team. They may have good profits and good products, but the most important thing is to have a team that’s working together, so everyone is working towards the same target.”

In addition to teamwork, Pierre says that the organisation’s strong customer focus is vital to its success. Novares prides itself on being one of the largest global plastic solutions suppliers today that has strong partnerships with automotive original equipment manufacturers and Tier-1s.

It has identified three main strengths that help separate the company from other similar businesses in the marketplace: global proximity, consistently reliable execution and pragmatic innovation.

In terms of global proximity, Novares has an advantage in that it operates in 22 countries around the world. The group has 47 manufacturing plants, 20 customer service centres, eight skill centres and seven technical centres. This global presence allows Novares to be situated in close proximity to its customers’ production sites, which reduces costs and ensures products are delivered on schedule.

Reliable execution means Novares provides its customers with a smooth, easy process from start to finish, as well as quality products. “It means we want to protect our customers, but also protect our company by having a zero-defect policy,” Pierre explains. “We aim to do our best to maintain high standards in terms of being reliable in our quality and our deliveries.”

Pragmatic innovation is reflected in the group’s mantra: ‘We never stop inventing’. The company aims to produce innovations that are useful, practical and focused on the future. Novares employs 750 engineers and technicians and dedicates 5.4 per cent of annual turnover to research and development. Since 1990, it has registered more than 165 patents – with that number growing every year.

The group has identified six fundamental trends in the automotive industry: more light vehicles being produced; a shift towards global platforms; internal combustion engines increasingly being replaced by hybrid and battery-electric vehicles; smart surfaces in car exteriors; light-weighting; and autonomous driving. Essentially, the aim is to make cars of the future cleaner, lighter, more connected and more ergonomic.

According to Pierre, innovation is essential for the company’s growth and sustainability. “Innovation is how we ensure we have profitable growth for the future,” he says, adding that the company’s philosophy is “without innovation, there is no automotive future.” Two-thirds of Novares’s innovation-related projects are focused on the reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions and reduction of vehicle weight.

“Innovation is how we ensure we have profitable growth for the future.”

Pierre says the group’s demonstration vehicles enable customers to see and experience the features and benefits of each innovation firsthand before production is initiated. “All of our innovations are manufactured and incorporated into a demo car,” he explains.

“We show this to our customers so they can see how we integrate the new technology into a car. They don’t have to just imagine how it would work – they can actually feel, touch and play with the features. If we’re not able to physically produce it, we don’t market it.”

The group’s most recent demo car, a BMW X2 dubbed the Nova Car #2, was unveiled in Paris in June this year. The vehicle showcased 25 innovations across seven product lines. Pierre says Nova Car #2 is an example of the “creative, pragmatic and smart solutions” that Novares provides to its customers.

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