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Situation

Low & Bonar, a London Stock Exchange-listed industrial materials manufacturer, announced a plan to integrate its European subsidiaries Colbond and Bonar Fabrics into a single organisation. The combined company would be structured for growth in four geographic regions (EMEA, NAFTA, ASIA, LATAM), overlaid by three global business units (civil engineering, interior and transport, building and industry).

Colbond manufactured non-woven materials including carpet tile backing, automotive carpet backing and drainage products at plants in the Netherlands, Germany, and the USA. Sales of €165m were principally in Europe and NAFTA. Bonar Fabrics manufactured woven and non-woven fabrics and construction fibres, with sales of €125m to the civil engineering and agricultural sectors. Manufacturing was in Belgium and Hungary, with joint ventures in China and Saudi Arabia.

Challenge

Both companies used similar technologies and served common civil engineering customers, but they had no history of close collaboration and were dissimilar in many important respects. Colbond was headquartered at Arnhem in the Netherlands and employed 525 people. Before integration, it was organised along functional lines and the culture was dominated by a focus on operations and process. Bonar Fabrics, headquartered in Zele, Belgium, employed 475 people directly and another 220 in China. Because the market demands responsiveness, the culture was focused on the customer and the approach to managing the staff was paternalistic.

Approach

Collinson Grant managed a programme of change designed to create, within nine months, a single integrated organisation with common ways of working. This entailed projects:

  • to develop the sales and marketing strategy for global business units with a particular focus on routes to market
  • to create and put in place a new organisational structure, to define the accountabilities and responsibilities of individuals, and develop ways of working
  • to highlight any opportunities to improve processes and reduce cost arising from the integration, and to evaluate and mitigate risks.

Outcome

The programme succeeded in creating a new organisation, Bonar, with a single set of accounts, common reporting and a focus on markets and customers instead of operations and business units. The new regional structure, overlaid with global business units, has created a platform for faster growth outside core markets in Western Europe.

Steve Good, Low & Bonar's Group Chief Executive, said:

"We went into the integration process knowing we had a significant challenge in front of us. Collinson Grant's assistance was vital in so many areas: organisational design, communication, strategy development, and overcoming cultural differences, to name just a few. We couldn't have been successful without them."

Bonar's products include the Bontec NW30 non-woven geotextile, which is pictured being used as the bedding for the TGV railway line linking Brussels Airport with Antwerp and Amsterdam.