Michael Rademacher wants to turn things around for M.A. Hanna Co.'s plastics compounding and color operations. Rademacher joined Cleveland-based Hanna in early January from Ashland Chemical Co. of Dublin, Ohio. He has previous plastics experience with thermoformer Portage Industries and with Ashland's General Polymers distribution unit.
As vice president for plastics in the Americas, Rademacher assumes control of Hanna's largest division, one that contributed about 40 percent of the firm's $2.3 billion sales total in 1999.
Although the division's sales increased by about 6 percent in 1999, Hanna Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Phillip Ashkettle said in a Jan. 26 news release that the company's compounding business "continues to struggle" while its colorants business "still is performing well below its potential."
Industry observers and analysts say Hanna has struggled to assimilate the more than two- dozen acquisitions it has made since switching its focus from coal mining to plastics in the mid-1980s.
Industry contacts add that a new computer system created logistics nightmares for the firm in 1998 and 1999.
But Rademacher, who worked with Ashkettle for eight years at Ashland, said in a Jan. 26 telephone interview that he's ready for the challenge.
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe this company had a good strategy," Rademacher said. "We have a good basket of products and services and can capture more value because of the mix that we offer."
Rademacher added that this combination of products will separate Hanna from other compounders and color firms.
"I think customers have less time to meet and interact with a multitude of suppliers, so to make the final cut you have to offer a variety of products along with technical support and service," he said.
Rademacher admits he has "a steep learning curve" to catch up with some technological issues, but plans to visit as many of Hanna's compound and color operations as he can to speed up his education.
Since joining the firm in early January, he had visited Hanna Color headquarters in Norcross, Ga., and color technical centers in Norcross and Suwanee, Ga., and was visiting a color plant in Fort Worth, Texas, on Jan. 27.
Rademacher added that he is unaware of any plans for additional closings at Hanna's color plants. The firm closed five of its 17 plants in 1998 and 1999.
Hanna intends to stick with plans to develop the wire and cable and automotive markets and to refocus on small and midsize customers that were outlined by now-retired chairman and CEO Martin Walker.
"We need to tailor our services to each account's size and preference," Rademacher said. "Our customers have raised their performance standards and response times and we have to raise ours as well."
Overall, Hanna's 1999 sales remained unchanged at $2.3 billion, although its pretax earnings climbed from $35 million to almost $69 million.
On the stock market, Hanna traded at about $12 per share Jan. 27. It had rebounded from a low of almost $9 per share in late October, but was still shy of the $17 price it commanded in May 1999.
A recent industry study ranked Hanna as the third-largest compounder in the United States with a market share of 4-5 percent. Hanna also ranked as North America's largest manufacturer of plastics compounds and colorants with a 10 percent market share.