Univar Solutions framed its ambitions in just one short sentence when it went on the acquisition trail last year.
It was and continues to be determined to redefine distribution and be the most valued chemical and ingredient distributor on the planet.
And the 90-year-old Univar did just that when it acquired Nexeo Solutions in April 2019.
The latter gave Univar a much bigger footprint in the personal care, home care, industrial and speciality chemical and ingredients markets it was after in both the America’s and Asia.
Nick Powell, President of EMEA & APAC in the rebranded Univar Solutions, said: “There were a lot of synergies between the two companies and, yes, the acquisition fits well with our expansion desires.
“We retained the $2bn chemical and ingredient business, divested the plastics element, and absorbed Nexeo’s strong focus on being a solutions company.”
With net sales in 2019 of just over $9bn, Univar Solutions is indeed a world leader in chemical and ingredient supply.
Our sheer scale of operation and geographic reach is important, said Nick. The company has a physical presence in over 30 countries with a particularly firm footing in North America and Europe.
“Yes, we are large in size, but we are also laser-focused on being agile, reliable, and consistent across all the businesses and countries where we operate.
“That scale combined with reliability is reassuring, particularly during these days of a global pandemic. Some of our competitors might suffer from issues such as cash-flow, and some may not even survive, but we are here to stay.”
Scale wasn’t at the top of the list as far as most of Univar Solutions customers were concerned.
“For the majority of our customers, what is most important is that we are local to them and offer a fast, efficient and reliable local service,” he said, “and that’s where the number of warehouses, tank farms, blending facilities and offices we have comes into play.”
“These facilities, combined with the over 400 sales and technical support staff in the field across EMEA, work with and support our customers in selling the value of our suppliers’ products.”
Univar Solutions strong relationships with leading suppliers allows it to offer the deepest, broadest portfolio of chemicals and ingredients available – from specialty ingredients to commodity chemicals.
Intent on adding value via its services, the company also draws upon its vast capabilities, including digital tools to automate processes and make it easier to do business with, along with the expertise to deliver tailored solutions, ranging from formulation and recipe development through field technical support, analytical services, and packaging to the identification of more sustainable production offerings.
“We have 48 technical solutions centres around the globe that are strategically located close to our customer bases,” said Nick.
“Our solutions centres are focused in two main areas: either trouble-shooting customers technical problems or helping them to formulate and perfect a finished product that they can then take to market themselves.”
“We want to help our customers produce the very best product they can, whether that’s a sunscreen or a ready meal or an advanced coating, and that’s really where we add value.”
A lot of major chemical producers have retrenched in recent years, receding from direct sales and technical support to concentrate instead on research and development and production, or in some cases,
they have reduced their focus to serve their biggest customers only.
“But their smaller and medium sized customers need support as well,” said Nick, “and that is the strike zone for us – small to medium-sized enterprises that use chemicals and ingredients in their products or production processes.”
“Customers and suppliers needed more from their chemical and ingredients distributor, more than just a basic service,” he said. “To innovate and grow, they needed a partner – an expert adept at collaboration who could help improve their processes, formulate a breakthrough product and / or optimise their supply chain, all the while keeping a strong focus on safety and sustainability.”
With a strong distribution network and what is one of the largest private fleets in the industry, Univar Solutions
prides itself on delivering logistical know-how to providing data-driven insights designed to reduce both delivery times and costs, thereby helping customers respond more nimbly to market conditions.
One of the services it provides is the breaking down of bulk deliveries into the often smaller quantities required by our customers, which are then delivered in turn directly to customers.
“In the UK, the vast majority of deliveries are made using our own fleet.”
One of the common threads – perhaps the biggest one of all – running through every aspect of the company is the emphasis on safety. In fact, being ‘Serious About Safety’ leads Univar Solutions core values, which include being a place ‘Where People Matter’ as well as being ‘Valuable to Others’ and ‘Doing What We Say’, so ‘Together We Win’. Combined, these describe a purpose-driven and values-based company.
Nick said, “We have a huge focus on safety! Before everything else, we are serious about safety.”
“Every employee in our business, right through the organization and including our field based employees, has the ability to stop the job.”
“If they spot a risk, we actively encourage them to stop the job, which could mean stopping a facility operating or choosing not to deliver to a site – we have had letters from customers praising our staff for spotting a problem they weren’t aware of, before an incident occurs.
“We’re not only protecting our own staff with this policy, but also the employees of our customers and the reputation of the suppliers whose products we are delivering.”
That focus on safety is yet another reason why Univar Solutions is relied upon and trusted all over the world.