When the CEPE announces its annual assembly, the call is taken up by the nations. And their number is growing. Last year's new additions - Romania and Hungary - were represented by further delegates this year. The American delegation is also growing in significance and numbers. And so it was entirely fitting that the organisers had invited a number of speakers to discuss the topic of internationality.
Jean-Pierre Monteny, president of the Coatings Division of the BASF Group and chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF Coatings AG, took the stage as a living example of a cross-border focus. The Frenchman, who heads a German group of companies, made reference to the international makeup of his colleagues on the board of management. It is a well-known fact that this was not always the case. In 1965, things were still entirely in German hands with just two locations in Munster and Hamburg. By 1985, their number had increased to twelve, and, in particular, the acquisition of the North American Inmont turned BASF into a global player. So far, so good. Given all - or rather - despite all expansion, "cultural differences" and "relationship problems" between the parent company and its national subsidiaries remained a challenge. The answer - transnationality - sounded simple, but proved to be hard work. National responsibilities have been replaced by competence for individual functions, each having a global dimension. Global customers are looked after globally (one voice policy). However, local differences have not disappeared entirely. For example, NPCA President Andrew Doyle inquired about the BASF Coatings website and eBusiness. Monteny: The strategy may be global, but the concrete websites for the United States and Europe differ.
Ian Harrison, managing director of Orr & Boss, talked of his experiences in his Europe-wide work with the paint and coating industry. How uniform is the old (coating) world? To begin with: how large is it? Well, according to him, there are 737 "significant" coating manufacturers in Europe, whereby he did not define his classification. He thought that 40%, i.e., around 300, could be described as "international." An interesting benchmark, by the way: He said that with 11,000 tonnes (t) per year, the United Kingdom had the largest average output, followed by the Germans with 8,000 t and the French with 7,500 t, probably making both of them candidates for consolidation. Unlike U.S. manufacturers, the Europeans tend to invest more in technology, service and quality as a source of growth. Across the Atlantic, greater reliance is placed on customer support and core markets. Production orientation and attempted internationalisation on the one hand, customer orientation and focusing on the other? At any rate, U.S. manufacturers clearly seem to be more optimistic than the Europeans, who do, however, remain expansionist, particularly with a view to Eastern Europe.
Jose Pinto dos Santos, a management professor at INSEAD, took up the ideas of Jean-Pierre Monteny in a number of respects. His newly coined patent for a forward-looking way of doing business: metanationality. He too wants to shed national responsibilities. And he goes on to say that modern companies should not even report national results any longer. He claims that the performance of individual locations - which then would naturally have to accept global responsibilities - is far more important. He said that, on the one hand, particular national features that have traditionally earned praise should not be blurred, but, on the other hand, they should not be confined to their geographical borders. If, for example, an Italian designer - of shoes, ideas or coatings formulations - were to relocate to the fictitious US head office, his special talent would be taken entirely out of its context and suffer in consequence. On the other hand, his creative ability was not just intended for Italy between Milan and Palermo. The answer lies in metanationality: He contributes his abilities to the corporate identity, to the global network of skills. He says that this is the only way that a global organisation makes sense: "Use global operations to leverage metanational innovations rather than to project home orthodoxies."
Jean Schoder, secretary general of CEPE, took stock of the most important lobby activities.
- Coatings in contact with food: definition of market segments, co-ordination of testing methods
- Printing inks in contact with food: study on the migration of additives
- Printing inks generally: new regulations for use
- Architectural coatings: intensified public relations
- Water-based coatings: labelling obligation for DEGBE solvents no longer generally applicable, but only after a threshold value has been exceeded
- Marine coatings: nonylphenol ban probably now changed to "information on proper safety at work."
- TBT/anti-fouling systems: support for implementation
- Powder coatings: participation in Powder Coating Europe
- EU chemicals policy: support of fundamental goals, going for more transparency
Neville Petersen, the president of CEPE, co-hosted a gala dinner at the Foz Palace in Lisbon along with the Portuguese association, which was praised for its highly professional organisation of the entire event. Football served as a kind of competition during the daytime. The coffee breaks were used as international get-togethers to watch live broadcasts of the World Cup without any hint of hooliganism. CEPE is quite simply a strong team.
The next general assembly is scheduled for June 4-6, 2003, at the Hotel Marienlyst in Helsing r/Denmark.