Innovation and exciting company developments were abuzz at the annual M. Holland conference this month. Hosted at the beautiful Lake Geneva Resort and Spa, more than 400 Mployees, customers, and suppliers gathered to discuss company growth and plans, and share educational insight into leadership best practices, brand innovation, and the staggering growth of the plastics industry.

“Imagine, Create, Experience” was this year’s theme, and attendees were encouraged to look beyond the status quo and imagine what the future holds for the plastics industry and for M. Holland. Over the past seven decades, we’ve grown from a successful regional plastic resin distributor into a recognized leader in the plastics industry with international reach. While remaining a family-owned business with customers at our core, we are adapting to seize new business opportunities, adopt new technologies, and leverage our international scale to bring greater value and better experiences to customers and suppliers. Our conference was the perfect venue to highlight this new journey

Plastics innovation

This isn’t just our journey, it’s the industry’s journey, too. The plastics industry has a reputation for being shielded from emerging tech and disruption. Our VP of Corporate Development Dwight Morgan turned this assumption on its head during his presentation that shed light on new innovations in materials science.

The plastics industry is working to find new discoveries in sustainability. As Dwight pointed out, plastic waste becomes a global problem as populations grow, and out of necessity, plastics companies will need to find new ways to ensure the plastic we all rely on has a minimized impact on the environment. During the week of our conference, for example, Keurig announced it has successfully made K-cups recyclable by switching to polypropylene #5 plastic, and that it aims to have them 100% recyclable by 2020.

4D printing is another amazing materials innovation. Scientists at MIT have found a way to print 3-dimensional objects (3D printing) that are responsive and able to adapt to their surroundings on their own. Think: underground pipes that change shape to help the flow of water.

Plastics market insights

Andrew Reynolds, director at Applied Market Information, delivered a keynote address in which he shared valuable market insight into the fast-growing plastics industry.

Andrew showed that the world is expecting a 9.5 billion population size by 2050, which is 2.1 billion more mouths to feed, clothe, and shelter than today. Digital and mobile market penetration is skyrocketing, and we’re inheriting a growing aging population. These factors, combined with an increased regulatory and competitive import/export environment, are giving plastics producers and customers new challenges to navigate in a growing industry.

Good news for the U.S. plastics industry: 2016 saw steady growth. There is renewed confidence in domestic manufacturing, fewer manufacturing facilities are moving out of the U.S., and there’s even been an uptick in reshoring as the domestic energy and plastic resin markets soar on the tailwinds of low-cost oil and gas and feedstocks.

Leadership

Mark King, president of Adidas North America, shared his wisdom on how he managed to grow Adidas’ golf sporting goods division, TaylorMade, amidst shrinking consumer demand.

A leader’s number one priority is being as successful tomorrow as they have been in the past,” said King. He shared a few tips on how he has been able to grow businesses and increase sales in a highly competitive industry:

  • He always leaves an empty seat in a company meeting. That empty chair represents the customer’s opinion. It’s so easy to get caught up in what is best for the business or specific departments—but you should always take into serious consideration the opinion of the customer. What would they have to say about your discussion?
  • If you want to change the dynamics of your business today, you need an aspiration to which you map every decision. Setting a solid aspiration, ex: “I want my business to grow X amount by 2020, and to offer the best customer experience of any competitor,” allows you to put important decisions into the right perspective. If it moves the needle toward your aspiration, then you’ll know it’s a good decision.
  • The world is about disruption. Tech, employees, and competitors will drive it if you don’t embrace it first. Don’t get left out of the innovation discussion—be the driving force. Be the source of change and the others will follow.

If you’d like to catch up on what you missed at our M. Holland conference, check out the live discussion on Twitter using the hashtag, #MHXperience. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to stay up-to-date with our plastics industry content and company developments.