Wes Lucas Takes Reins at Sun Chemical

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 09.09.05

New CEO sees opportunities as the company concentrates efforts on value selling, Six Sigma and people development.

As Henri Dyner stepped down on March 31 as Sun Chemical’s chief executive officer, Wes Lucas, the company’s president since Aug. 1, has taken on the role of CEO.

It will most likely be a time of both continuity and transition at Sun Chemical, the world’s largest printing ink manufacturer, as Mr. Lucas familiarizes himself with his new role and embarks on new initiatives.

“Our key initiatives will be Six Sigma, value selling and people development,” Mr. Lucas said. “We’re a people business, and our skills will create value for our customers. We have far and away the best and most responsive people in the industry. That interaction is so very important to Sun.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to provide higher quality through Six Sigma, higher value added technologies, more valuable services and providing complete solutions for customers,” Mr. Lucas said.


With Mr. Lucas becoming CEO, all of Sun Chemical’s divisions – including the Colors Group, Kohl & Madden, Screen & Electrographics, Sun Chemical Europe, Sun Chemical Ink (GPI), Sun Chemical Latin America, and US Ink along with the functional teams – will report to him.

To allow Mr. Lucas to adjust to his new role as CEO, Mr. Dyner will stay on in a part-time capacity for the foreseeable future.

“What I intend to do is be an advisor to Wes, and to stay in tune with what’s going on until he feels he doesn’t need me anymore,” Mr. Dyner said.

“This is a seamless transition,” Mr. Lucas said. “Henri and I will work very closely. We have very similar views and approaches. We want to build a foundation, build in the same direction, but with some new tools to implement our plan and strategy. We are adhering to the same strategy and path, the focus on being our customers’ choice to provide concrete solutions.”

Mr. Dyner said that Mr. Lucas has shown tremendous ability during his first months at Sun Chemical.

“Wes is everything I thought and more,” Mr. Dyner said. “He is an extremely hard worker, with a high level of energy and creativity, and at the same time understanding that there are the twin cultures of the graphic arts and Sun Chemical to learn. People with similar backgrounds could make up their minds without all the facts, but he is very aware that he has to get all the facts before making up his mind. I think he will be great for the company.”

Value Selling

One of the major concerns throughout the ink industry is that ink is being increasingly viewed as a commodity. As a result, ink manufacturers are not getting the appropriate price for what they bring in terms of value. Mr. Dyner and Mr. Lucas agree strongly that providing value to the customer should be rewarded.

“Wes is very committed to value selling, where we educate and train our people on the total cost of print vs. ink,” Mr. Dyner said. “It took me almost a year to locate Wes, and one of the areas I was very impressed with Wes was that he immediately attacked the idea of selling ‘Total Solutions.’ He’s going to continue that initiative.”

“There’s an enormous value in ink,” Mr. Lucas said. “It is a fascinating, tangible industry which is involved in everybody’s daily life. It’s hard to get through the day without touching our product. Five percent of the cost of raw materials for printing goes to ink, but ink can affect 30 percent of the cost of a print job. We create enormous value for our customers.

“We should focus on value rather than price per pound, and understand each customer’s needs and provide solutions for their needs and challenges,” Mr. Lucas said.

“It’s really about a value approach, understanding each customer’s needs and determining what mix of products and services we bring to each customer. We want to match products and services directly to customers and provide a customized solution.

“We need to tailor our approach,” Mr. Lucas said. “We can approach ink as a commodity, but either way, we need to be paid appropriately for our products. We create so much value as an industry, but we don’t get paid for it. Shame on us for not getting that value. There’s an enormous opportunity to provide a value approach.”

One area where Mr. Lucas believes Sun Chemical can differentiate itself and provide that extra value is through technology.

“We have an enormous investment in technology, which should yield the next generation of products and services,” Mr. Lucas said. “We have to create better technologies and better solutions, and we are increasing that capability by focusing on technology and solutions even during the tough economy. As a leader, we need to have the broadest set of tools and deepest technology to provide value for our customers.”

Six Sigma

One of the most powerful tools for business success is Six Sigma. In essence, Six Sigma is a fact-based approach for eliminating defects from any aspect of an organization. To reach Six Sigma, a company must limit its defects to 3.4 per million opportunities.

A number of major corporations worldwide have made the transition to Six Sigma, including General Electric and Motorola. General Electric reportedly believes it has saved more than $10 billion in the past five years alone by adhering to its practices.

Mr. Lucas worked with Six Sigma at AlliedSignal, and he believes the process has great merit for Sun Chemical. As of this past January, the company has begun implementing the beginnings of it own Six Sigma system.

“That is a very powerful tool to enhance our profitability,” said Mr. Dyner. “Our company is more than ready to accept that philosophy.”

To make the transition easier, Sun Chemical hired Dr. David C. Hill as corporate vice president, chief technology officer. Dr. Hill, a top executive at AlliedSignal, Union Carbide and J.M. Huber Corp., has had extensive experience with Six Sigma.

“Six Sigma is a tool, but it is not a cure-all,” Mr. Lucas said. “It provides a toolbox. It enables customers and suppliers to share a common fact-based language and fact-based approach. You can identify problems more quickly and solve them. We will have the ability to solve these problems faster, systematically eliminate errors in our process and improve performance and product. We can hit specifications bang-on which will reduce the cost of printing for our customers.

“Our customers will see these improvements in product and consistency, even in non-product areas such as accounts receivable,” Mr. Lucas said. “By the end of the year, we’ll have a good capability, and there will be two levels of people up and running this fall. As a result, our customers should see a significant improvement.”

Mr. Lucas said that one advantage of Six Sigma is that it empowers people to make their own decisions, rather than sending decisions up the chain of command, which costs valuable time.

Having an entrepreneurial approach to decision-making may allow larger companies to better serve their customers.

“Six Sigma will allow us to have the same turnaround time as a small company while leveraging our capabilities of being the largest,” Mr. Lucas said. “The power of decision-making is from the bottom up. GE and Motorola were able to create the internal ability to be entrepreneurial and deliver on a global basis.”

Sun Chemical’s Culture

Over the years, Sun Chemical has grown into the leader in the ink industry, and has developed its own sense of history and corporate culture. Much of that culture is due to Edward E. Barr, Sun Chemical’s chairman, and Mr. Dyner.

“Sun can be very proud of its history and culture,” Mr. Lucas said. “We focus on our customers and are responsive when developing new technologies. I think we have terrific people. The people at Sun are great at working with our customers. I embrace that culture. It’s such a great fit with Henri and Ed, with the people at GPI, US Ink and Kohl & Madden.”

Mr. Lucas said he is fortunate to have Mr. Barr and Mr. Dyner’s advice as he takes over as CEO.

“The ability to work with Henri and Ed was an attraction,” Mr. Lucas said. “Ed has a very similar history to Henri in the U.S. He developed the strategy and the plan, and started the execution of his plan. To have the opportunity to work with Ed and Henri is a real honor, and it is an enormous opportunity to come into a new industry and have them available for advice.”

Mr. Lucas has met the leaders of Dainippon Ink & Chemicals (DIC), Sun Chemical’s parent company, and he looks forward to working with them as well.

“The DIC people are terrific,” Mr. Lucas said. “We operate as a closely held private company, which allows us to be nimble and quick.”

The Future

Mr. Lucas said he has a lot to learn about the industry, and he is enjoying the process. He is looking forward to helping Sun Chemical continue to grow.

“I’ll learn a lot, listen a lot, come in knowing I’m new to the industry, and have the perspective that my customers, my colleagues at Sun, our suppliers and our competitors have a lot to teach me,” Mr. Lucas said.

“Our goal is to continue to be the leader in the graphic arts industry, offering increased quality, having Six Sigma-based paradigms for our manufacturing operations and to have superior quality and delivery time,” Mr. Lucas said.

“The difference between good and excellent may not look like a lot, but it may mean a lot to the customer,” Mr. Lucas said. “We want to be excellent in everything that we do. People deliver much of the value and develop solutions that win the day. With great people, we can do great things.”