Timothy J. O’Brien is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Wilsonart Engineered Surfaces, leading all aspects of the $1.4 billion, 5,000+ employee global enterprise. Below, Timothy tells us about Wilsonart’s roots, accomplishments and the impact that new technology has on the development of engineered surfacing solutions.
What has been Wilsonart’s greatest achievement that you have overseen?
Since emerging as an independent business in 2012, Wilsonart has seen significant growth and value creation. We’re a company that’s driven by an entrepreneurial spirit, experiencing a tremendous transformation from a US High Pressure Laminate company to a leading global engineered surfaces enterprise. We have expanded our product portfolio, our global reach, and our operational excellence and service levels.
To break that down further, we have added Epoxy, Quartz, Performance Veneer, and “Wet Wall” solutions to our product portfolio. Additionally, we have added manufacturing capabilities in the Solid Surface and TFL product categories to meet rapidly growing demand. We have expanded our global reach in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia and are fiercely focused on meeting the growing demands of our customers. Our industry-leading delivery times and global footprint means we can serve customer needs wherever and whenever required.
Tell us about the challenges and opportunities you faced transitioning from a Laminate manufacturer to a total engineered surfacing solutions provider.
We have incredibly savvy and forward-thinking customers who deserve a partner that pushes the boundaries to develop next-generation ideas. As a company that has launched a multitude of innovative products and thousands of new designs over a few short years, our greatest challenge and opportunity has been to set higher standards for the surfaces we bring to market. Today, surfaces are going beyond beautiful design and texture to also deliver superior performance.
Challenging our employees to serve the customer has also been key. One of our most steadfast commitments is empowering all of our 5,000+ employees to live out our company mission: Surfaces you love, service you can count on, by people who care.
How have the implementation of new technologies helped Wilsonart to grow and how have these technologies impacted productivity?
Wilsonart has always worked with the best minds, technology and innovation available. By working with dexterous partners, investing in the latest technologies and expanding into new territory, we’ve driven our growth rate from low single digits to approaching double digit rates this year. Introducing technologies like the short-cycle press allows for rapid introduction of new finishes, synchronized and soft touch textures. In addition, we are opening a new state-of-the-art Solid Surface plant in Texas later this year, increasing our output and design capabilities to meet the growing demands of our customer base. Making these investments in technology allows us to remain highly competitive.
How is Wilsonart leading in innovation in the engineered surfacing industry?
Innovate or die, as the saying goes. Companies must be willing to diversify, take risks and think long-term if they’re going to stay in business. Wilsonart has worked around the clock to develop high-performing products like fingerprint-resistant, water-resistant, scratch- and scuff-resistant and soft-touch Laminate innovations that far exceed the performance of what was thought possible with Laminates just a few years ago. Advanced technology and manufacturing has made it possible for engineered surfaces like Quartz and Solid Surface to resemble natural stones, creating a more sustainable, durable and competitive alternative to quarried stones. We’re also excited to be rolling out in the US a European-inspired, ultra-thin countertop line that will be known as THINSCAPE Performance Tops—highly durable and versatile, slim decorative slabs available in stone, woodgrain and metal designs.
How have Wilsonart’s Texas roots influenced the brand’s global business strategy?
With headquarters in Austin, TX, Wilsonart is a proud Texas company with a can-do attitude. We’ve always been exposed to an exceptional pool of world-class talent, persevering attitudes and worldview perspectives. Today, we have a presence in 100+ countries with the leading brands in ten of the world’s top markets and an ever-expanding global supply chain. This incredible reach makes us an attractive and reliable global partner.
What are the next steps for Wilsonart’s development moving forward?
Going forward, Wilsonart will continue to evolve and adapt to the changing needs of our customers. We are proud of our leadership position in Laminates and will continue to invest and lead in this category. Our exciting new products give our customers even more surfacing choices, allowing them to select the design, texture and performance they want within their budget.