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Olon’s vision: With a mindset focused on quality, new products and operational excellence, new CEO sees bright future

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Olon Industries, based in Georgetown, Ontario, is a leading single-source manufacturer of furniture and cabinet components and custom solutions. Earlier this year, Olon appointed Gregory J. Stoner as president and CEO. Stoner previously worked as president and CEO of Metrie, a manufacturer and distributor of molding and millwork products across the U.S. and Canada. Before that, Stoner served as president of MasterBrand Cabinets, as well as in positions at General Electric and Newell-Rubbermaid.

Surface & Panel posed a series of questions to Stoner about what he brings to Olon and his thoughts about the state of the company and what lies ahead.

Q. Tell me about who you are, your experience and your background in the building products industry?

A.  Currently, I am the president and CEO of Olon Industries. I also have operating responsibility for OL Frontal Solutions, our recently formed joint venture with Licar, a division of the ILCAM Group based in Italy. I have had the privilege of being in the building products industry for the last 19 years of my career. This includes ventilated wire shelving, storage and organization products, kitchen and bath cabinetry and moulding and millwork products. I have dealt with the independent dealers, national home center retailers, pro dealers/wholesalers and national home builders over that span. During that time, I worked for some outstanding companies like Newell-Rubbermaid and Fortune Brands Home and Security. I will bring this experience to Olon, a much smaller company, to lead us down a path of customer centricity and operational excellence. Executing these two disciplines will enhance our customer’s interaction with us, at every level, something I am completely committed to.

Q. Why did you decide to return from retirement to join the Olon Team?

A. I decided to “un-retire” when I was approached to join Olon by its new owners, White Owl. I knew and respected who Olon was from my days in the cabinetry business, and more importantly I was impressed with the vision and support of the new owners of what we could become. The vision they have for where we can go is exciting. The family feel of private owners was just as important. They value people and want us to grow the business the right way. Private ownership provides for a longer term view of the world and executing strategy versus the short-term outlook of many public and private equity-owned companies.

Q. Tell me a little about Olon and what distinguishes you in your marketplace.

A. Olon is one of North America’s leading single source manufacturers of quality component and custom solutions serving the furniture and cabinet industry for over 35 years. The entrepreneurial spirit and unwavering commitment to our customers that was the cornerstone of our business in 1981 remains the foundation of everything we do today.

Olon’s residential and commercial product offering is second to none, including: extensive profile wrapping capabilities; customizable postformable laminates; the VelourTouch Ultramatte Collection panel and moulding program; a full range of signature NEXGEN® TFL & HPL matching components; and a vast selection of solid wood, plywood and vinyl miterfold drawer components.

The newly added state-of-the-art door assembly and panel lamination capabilities of OL Frontal Solutions joint venture continue to set Olon apart. Nowhere else in North America can companies find from one source the technical expertise, scope of materials, components and custom products for the integrated solutions they require.

Q. What is your vision for Olon in the short term and growth strategy for the coming years?

A. In the short term, we are going to focus on driving a mindset of quality and continuous operational improvement across the company. With this capability at our core, we will be in position to better serve our customers, earning their business every day. Longer term, we will invest in capacity and capability to bring new products to our partners that are on trend and excite both influencers and consumers. Over time, this will become the engine that drives Olon’s vitality. It is important that our customers view us as a vital extension of their business versus a transactional vendor.

Q. How does the OL Frontal Solutions joint venture affect Olon’s identity and perception in the marketplace?

A.  This only enhances our identity. This joint venture brings the capability of Licar, the leader in cabinet doors and other frontal solutions in Europe, and Olon, a leader in wrapped frontal components, together as one. We will be in position to leverage trends and styles that traditionally have been created in Europe and adopted later in North America, giving us a first-mover advantage. This joint venture provides a platform to increase our relevancy to our strategic partners, a critical component of our overall growth strategy.

Q. What challenges do you see facing Olon and the building products industry today?

A. Broadly speaking, we are faced with many of the same challenges all of the building products participants encounter. Most notable at the moment is our ability to find and retain skilled associates.  Finding competent associates is impacting our ability to grow and putting upward pressure on wages.  With unemployment at historically low levels, it has been very challenging to find qualified associates.  Add to that our increasing use of highly technical equipment, in many of our locations, and it just compounds the issue. To combat this, we are putting a lot of effort into “marketing” ourselves to potential new hires. We are also looking at creative ways for Olon to retain existing associates.  Turnover in any business has a negative impact, and we are trying to minimize that. As the economy improves, this challenge will not go away.