James Chapman doesn't plan on reinventing the wheel, even though his recent promotion makes him the highest-ranking U.S. compounding official at M.A. Hanna Co., the country's third-largest plastics compounder.
``There's not going to be a revolution or anything of that sort,'' said Chapman. ``We've been going in with a plan to improve service to our customers and improve our technology platform, and that progress is going to continue.''
Chapman, who has been president of Hanna's engineered materials unit in Norcross, Ga., since joining the firm in 1996, now will head its specialty color unit as well. That group had been led by Douglas Schrank, who is resigning to pursue other opportunities.
``The plastics marketplace is challenging, but it offers a set of opportunities at the same time,'' said Chapman, who has previous management experience at Courtlands plc, GE Plastics and Borg Warner Co. ``The color side isn't that much different from the engineered materials side. Competition is stiff and there's a lot of consolidation going on in both areas.''
Chapman added that Cleveland-based Hanna's 1999 market efforts will focus on materials such as filled polymers, which can be used as lead replacements or offer metallike thermal conductivity, as well as on more-highly concentrated colorants.
Plastics processing is Hanna's second-largest business, accounting for $858 million of the company's record 1998 sales total of $2.3 billion. Hanna's distribution unit racked up sales of $918 million last year.
Garth Henry, executive vice president of worldwide plastics, describes Chapman as ``a seasoned industry veteran'' who will allow the company to take advantage of combining its compounding and colorant businesses under a single leader. Henry also credits Schrank with improving Hanna's manufacturing and technical efficiency in his six years with the company.
Combining Chapman's job with Schrank's was ``an evolutionary move,'' according to Saul Ludwig, an industry analyst with McDonald & Co. in Cleveland.
``There's a lot of overlap between the two businesses, so this isn't awkward at all,'' he said.
Chapman's promotion comes as Hanna works to recover from a turbulent year that has seen top executive Douglas McGregor resign, to be replaced by his predecessor, Martin Walker.
Shifting market demand and lower resin prices caused the firm's operating profit to plunge 34 percent last year, even though sales increased almost 4 percent to a record $2.3 billion. The company also has eliminated 4 percent of its work force since August by closing or selling five colorant plants.
Industry sources have said Hanna has struggled to assimilate the 25 acquisitions it has made since 1986, and has experienced difficulty in installing a companywide computer system. The computer glitches sometimes delayed shipments to customers, according to several contacts.
Although Hanna's stock price has rebounded to $15 per share recently, its price a year ago hovered around $25.