Major Changes Begin at Mohawk

At launch events held in New York over the last three weeks for customers and employees, Mohawk Fine Papers revealed its blueprint to transform its premium paper business to thrive in today’s digital world.

In his presentations, Thomas D. O’Connor, Jr., chairman and CEO, Mohawk, the largest premium paper company in North America, outlined his vision for the future.

“Everywhere you read that print is declining, but the opportunities with the new digital technologies, or with what I would call ‘the new generation of print’, are great,” O’Connor said. “Technology disrupts, recessions clarify, and successful companies reinvent. That’s what we’re doing right now.”

O’Connor outlined Mohawk’s framework:

  • Mohawk will focus its manufacturing exclusively on high-margin papers and products that will bring distinct value to the new generation of print customers, a unique positioning in an industry historically driven by volume and capacity.
  • Mohawk will develop strategic acquisitions and partnerships that successfully leverage Mohawk’s expertise and operational excellence.
  • Mohawk will continue to move closer to the end-customer across all business segments.

O’Connor discussed Mohawk’s progress over the last 24 months:

  • He cited Mohawk’s acquisition of Bravo in 2011. The digital specialty substrates business, he reported, offers significant worldwide potential.
  • Last year, Mohawk created and launched a B2B and B2C envelope business. In the past, O’Connor said, Mohawk relied exclusively on converters to produce envelopes made with its papers. “Now, we’re making envelopes at the rate of 30 million per month,” he said. O’Connor explained that Mohawk is now better able to service its customers, fill an unmet need in the marketplace, and achieve substantially higher operating margins. “We’re taking the future into our own hands,” he said.
  • In the consumer marketplace, O’Connor pointed to Pinhole Press, Mohawk’s site for photo products launched in 2010. Pinhole products have been featured in consumer outlets like Real Simple and Martha Stewart Living. This business, he noted, took 7,000 orders the last six weeks of 2012. Pinhole Pro, a related offering to the professional photography community, was launched last month.
  • O’Connor said Mohawk will continue to seek strategic partnerships with companies like business card company Moo.com, that differentiate their products with unique substrates like proprietary Moo Luxe. He shared the example of Blurb.com, which now offers a high-end product line requested by its customers and advertises the use of Mohawk’s Superfine and ProPhoto papers to help sell its products.
  • Mohawk fully expects to leverage its industry expertise and operational excellence as an incremental revenue stream. “Last year, we earned over $1 million consulting with other paper companies,” he said. O’Connor predicted MakeReady, the service platform for digital printers launched by Mohawk last year, will become a consulting business.

“At our core, we are a paper company,” said O’Connor. “But we are rapidly becoming much, much more.” O’Connor indicated that customers would soon see substantive changes in the marketplace.

Beginning April 16, these changes will include:

  • Mohawk will launch Project Streamline. This is a strategic consolidation of Mohawk’s core paper lines, taking 22 paper grades (brands) down to six. For customers, Streamline is a simpler, clearer presentation of Mohawk brands and products, resulting in the elimination of more than 50% of its SKUs.
  • A new technology/operations initiative, Unified Service Delivery Platform, will create a seamless purchasing experience for all customers from merchants to printers or small businesses.  Customers will be able to choose how and when they want to do business with Mohawk. See next.
  • A new website, will integrate e-commerce into all dimensions of Mohawk’s online activities. The site provides a frictionless path for purchasing paper in small orders or large quantities.
  • The new name of the company will simply be Mohawk. Mohawk will also unveil a new brand identity.  O’Connor noted that the “energetic” new logo suggests paper rolls, circuit boards, and connectivity. O’Connor described the color palette with words like “fresh,” “optimistic,” and “youthful.” He remarked that the new brand speaks directly to Mohawk’s transformation, — “an expression of who we are and what we are becoming.”
  • A new campaign: “What will you make today?” “This simple question goes to the passions of customers who use our papers to make things, or to make a difference in their business,” said O’Connor.

“You know …” he said. “This is also a question I ask myself every day, ‘How can I make a more sustainable business?’” O’Connor said he wanted to build a business “that can sustain any changes in technology or in the business environment out there.”

“The last five or six years have been nothing like I’ve ever seen … and we are transforming our organization so it can sustain itself—and thrive—in today’s new environment.”

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