Solmax International Inc.
Geomembranes, PVC panels
Primary market : Canada, international
Number of employees: 175
President: Marc-André Gervais
A thick skin
Canadian mining sector companies are world leaders, active in projects on all six continents. Solmax International, which produces geomembranes that line the surfaces of landfill and mining sites, to prevent toxic substances from seeping into groundwater sources, has managed to piggy-back on their growth.
Geomembranes are basically large plastic sheets. So although there are differences in product composition based on their application and with regard to the geographical regions in which they are used, the technology is fairly standard. “We are a commodity business,” admits Marc-André Gervais, the company’s president. “Many other companies can make them. Our competitive advantages lie in the fact that we are a low-cost producer and that we have a global footprint and supply chain.”
Solmax products are also used in the petrochemical, fish-farming and landscaping industry, which uses the membranes to line pools and artificial lakes. According to Gervais, close to 80 percent of the company’s sales are made to markets outside of North America.
Solmax began operations in 1981 as a geomembrane installer, but in 1996 began making its own products. In 2002, the company started to focus almost exclusively on its manufacturing operations and on providing services to installers and engineers.
Gervais attributes the company’s success to its strategy of centralizing management and decentralizing operations, which gives it the ability to quickly adapt to challenges and opportunities within existing client and supplier bases. Solmax’s investments in productivity enhancing machinery and equipment and its global footprint, which provide it the ability to operate as a low cost producer, were also key. “We both buy and sell in US dollars, explains Gervais. “So we are not as affected by currency movements as other Canadian manufacturers.”
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