As general manager of our Specialty Coatings and Materials (SCM) business, Juliane Hefel oversees a global team and a specialized product portfolio that makes everyday life better – from providing vibrant images on your smartphone to keeping your vision clear, securing your identity documents secure and keeping your tires fuel efficient.
Learning the Language of Business
Nonlinear is the best way to describe Juliane’s career path. Fluent in five languages with a master’s degree in language interpretation and translation, she started as a translator at a patent law office. That job showed her what she didn’t want to do, so she shifted into procurement for a small catering company.
A desire to work for a global company led her to Henkel, where she held a variety of positions in China and Germany over a span of 16 years. Introduced to PPG while leading Henkel’s automotive OEM business in the Americas, Juliane joined SCM in September 2022 as general manager. She oversees 670 employees and six manufacturing sites in the U.S., Ireland and the Netherlands.
My role is to manage the magic triangle between strategy, execution and culture, with people management and leadership critical for my success and that of the business. I also need to balance short-term needs, which are focused on execution, with the long term – what does the future look like for us in the next 10 years?
Market Innovator and Disruptor
That future is looking as bright as the organic light-emitting diode (OLED) materials our Specialty Coatings and Materials business manufactures for Universal Display Corporation (UDC). SCM is an innovation leader and, at times, market disruptor in each of its four pillars:
OLED materials: Used primarily in smartphones and televisions, these materials make screens brighter and clearer but use less energy than traditional LED materials. For more than two decades, we’ve worked with UDC to develop and advance OLED technology.
Optical monomers and coatings: These products help eyeglass wearers see clearer and protect lenses against breakage. We introduced our CR-39® 1.5 index lens material to the market in the 1940s, and it’s still the workhorse of the optical industry.
PPG TESLIN® substrate: A high-performance synthetic paper, Teslin substrate stands up to water, chemicals, scuffing and tampering. It’s used for labels, print materials, passports, identification cards and more.
Precipitated silica: This white, powdery material improves the performance of many products, including tires, footwear, dry foods and coatings.
“Sustainability is driving a large portion of our growth across all four pillars. Our precipitated silicas improve the fuel efficiency of tires. We’re working with our optical customers to eliminate significant waste in the lens-making process. Our OLED materials enable consumer electronics to be more energy efficient. Sustainability is a journey, and being the company leading the effort will help differentiate us in the marketplace.”
A second SCM growth driver is technological advancements and movement into new or adjacent applications. A good example is OLED materials, which today are used in 50% of all smartphones globally. Televisions and laptops offer huge growth potential, and the material is also making inroads into the automotive market in applications like dashboard displays and taillights.
Juliane with other leaders at our Delfzijl plant in the Netherlands in 2022; opening of the Shannon facility in May 2023
Expanding OLED Production in Ireland
Growing market demand is behind the new OLED manufacturing site in Shannon, Ireland, that we opened in May 2023 with UDC. The site will double production of UDC’s UniversalPHOLED® materials, which provide energy efficiencies that are up to four times higher than conventional fluorescent OLED materials. We are the exclusive manufacturer of these products.
This facility is the result of the vision, trust and communication that we’ve shared with UDC for more than 20 years. It will support the growth that we foresee in the industry while also mitigating the risk of disruptions to the supply chain.
The plant will provide around 100 high-tech jobs in an area that was a former hub for the pharmaceutical industry. As the drug companies moved out, highly skilled talent remained. Those skills are now being transferred to the OLED industry.
Interconnected Team, Customers and Cultures
Because SCM does not have manufacturing capabilities in every region, its employees must think, act and lead globally to successfully navigate in an intertwined yet culturally diverse world.
“Learning a new culture is like learning a new language. There are different ways of communicating and getting things done. We make sure information flows freely so employees working with a specific customer are aware of what’s happening around the world.”
Juliane saw the strong connectivity between her employees and customers during her first week with SCM when she attended Vision Expo West, which is one of the optical industry’s largest events.
“Watching the team interact with our customers and seeing the trust our customers have in us to develop innovations that will disrupt the optical industry was really eye opening. We disrupted it with our CR-39® 1.5 index monomer, and our customers believe we’re the ones to do it again.”