Problem solving powers Novagard Solutions, whose team thrives on custom development of new products and technologies.
Novagard Solutions’ technical experts recently faced a critical challenge: create a better way for a manufacturer of auto parts to protect the leads near its high-intensity light bulbs. Doing so could mean a new, seven-figure customer for the Cleveland-based company.
The tall order was followed by a quick response. For 30 years, Novagard Solutions has provided advanced silicone-based sealants, adhesives, lubricants and PVC foams for use in a variety of industries, including automotive, construction, electronics, medical, general industrial, and product assembly. It developed a patented, UV-curable sealant for the company that better protected the light-bulb area.
Perhaps more importantly, a light bulb lit up.
“We realized we could take the technology and apply it to other industries and applications. Doing so makes our inventions more scalable,” says George Buzzy, Novagard president and CEO. “We’re never going to give up our engineering mindset - we think that’s our soul - but now we’re taking things to the next level, analyzing strategic places to develop our products.”
In April, the firm tweaked its solution for the auto-parts manufacturer and collaborated with its technical team to launch a line of UV and dual-cure (UV/moisture) encapsulants and gasketing materials. Products in Novagard Solutions’ room-temperature vulcanates (RTV) 800 series cure in less than three seconds, increasing customers’ product throughput to previously unobtainable levels. The company’s unique chemistry allows paste products to cure up to 5/8” thick with minimal energy requirements. Applications for RTV 800 products include formed-in-place gasketing for interior or exterior applications, eliminating the need to rack parts.
Focusing on Customization
Novagard Solutions often competes for business in the adhesives and sealants industry with major players like Dow Corning and Momentive Performance Materials. These large companies may not always be interested in small and mid-sized projects, but Buzzy’s firm is always looking for its next opportunity.
“We pride ourselves on working with smaller businesses with interesting challenges,” he says. “What sets us apart is our willingness to develop new products to a company’s specific needs and requirements. We will never take the attitude that we are too big to help you out, or that you are too small for us to be concerned.”
Regardless of the size of its customer base, Novagard Solutions aims to invent. Buzzy, who joined the company in 2005 after serving as COO and CFO of Cleveland-based software technology firm Datavantage, and as a consultant with New York City-based Deloitte and Touche, says innovation in the industry requires two facets: a big-picture thinker who recognizes trends and communicates them effectively to staff, and chemists who take that information and fervently solve problems. “If you say to chemists, ‘I want you to solve this situation,’ they’ll happily stay up all night trying,” Buzzy says. Ask them to identify marketplace challenges, however, and this is not easily accomplished.
At Novagard Solutions, Buzzy and the firm’s other executives concentrate on strategic direction and surround themselves with talented folks who are given the space to thrive. Earlier this year, one of Novagard Solutions’ big-picture ideas was penetrating the siding market.
“We noticed the primary product in that space was sub-standard and thought it was a new avenue we could go after,” he says. The quick result: Novagard Siding & Trim Sealant, a waterproof, permanently flexible, cost-effective product for professional contractors that adheres to most common building materials (surface temperatures from –40-400°F) and is VOC-compliant in all 50 states.
The company’s pioneering mentality won it a 2007 Evolution of Manufacturing Award from SmartBusiness magazine. The award, which recognizes Northeast Ohio manufacturers who “maintain a competitive advantage through innovation,” was presented to Novagard Solutions because of its re-engineering of automotive-grade PVC foam to reduce cost due to oil-price escalation while simultaneously improving quality.
The award underscored a truth that’s important to Buzzy: At a time when many Midwest manufacturers are struggling and relying on overseas labor, Novagard Solutions is growing its sales (at an annual rate of 10% since 2002) and continues to manufacture exclusively in the United States. That’s not to say he ignores possibilities in China and other countries; the company has achieved double-digit annual sales growth to international clients over the last five years, a result of working with an increasing number of overseas sales reps and distributors.
Concentrating on the Future
Novagard Solutions has historically defined itself as a single-chemistry (silicone) adhesives and sealants provider, but Buzzy is expanding the firm’s breadth. “To me, the most important thing is to figure out what’s next,” he says. “If you don’t, chances are you’re going to stagnate.”
While Buzzy says Novagard Solutions will remain focused on general industrial and construction markets, his growth strategy includes market expansion and introduction of next-generation products and technologies. One trend he expects will gain momentum is the conversion from mechanical fasteners to reactive acrylic adhesive.
“It’s hard for some folks to believe it’s stronger, faster and cheaper than a weld, and it’s up to us to convince engineers of that truth,” Buzzy says. “Converting the industry from nails, screws and rivets to adhesives won’t be easy, but it would provide us with a great opportunity.”
To that end, Novagard Solutions announced in April its new methyl methacrylate adhesive (MMA) products, two-component structural adhesives for industrial applications that provide a one-to-one mix ratio, have handling strengths of 5-30 minutes, and do not require expensive heat cures. MMAs adhere to most plastics, steel, PVC, polycarbonate, nylon, acrylic, aluminum, galvanized surfaces, ceramic, and hardwood, among other surfaces.
“It only takes one idea or one execution of a new chemistry to create an opportunity that can grow into outstanding products for new customers both nationally and internationally,” Buzzy says. “To us, the future has never looked brighter.”
SIDEBAR: Novagard Solutions At-a-Glance
Founded: 1977 as Foam Seal Inc.
Motto: "Engineered Products … Innovative Thinking"
Executive Staff: George Buzzy, CEO and president; Ken Dagg, CFO; Doug McKinzie, vice president of Operations; and Carl Wilkes, vice president of Sales and Marketing
Business in Brief: Novagard Solutions provides customized manufacturing solutions of advanced silicone-based sealants, adhesives, lubricants and PVC foams. Its high-quality, engineered products are used in the automotive, construction, electronics, medical, general industrial and product assembly industries.