Coperion Corp. is the latest machinery maker to bring out the chopping block, eliminating 25 positions in Ramsey, N.J., including Asmut Kahns, the veteran sales and marketing head of Werner & Pfleiderer compounding extruders.
The restructuring is part of the New Jersey operation's strategy, under a new top leader, to reduce costs to put Coperion in line with the now-smaller U.S. market and decentralize some operations into regional centers.
The layoffs will bring total employment in Ramsey to about 200, according to Jan van Bakergem, who was named the new president and chief executive officer June 1.
Van Bakergem confirmed the cuts also included Heinz Schneider, who was president of Coperion Components, and Paul Wagner, in charge of the systems business. Kahns was a 40-year W&P veteran.
In April, the top executive in Ramsey, Michael Kenny, the former president and chief executive officer, was let go. An interim leader held the post until van Bakergem was hired.
Coperion makes Werner & Pfleiderer compounding lines, Buss kneaders and Waeschle material-handling systems. For the Ramsey operation and its parent company, Coperion Holding GmbH in Stuttgart, Germany, the restructuring continues a three-year period of major changes.
Coperion formed in 2000 after Swiss machinery maker Georg Fischer AG and an investor group bought Krupp Werner & Pfleiderer GmbH from Germany's Thyssen Krupp AG. Fischer had already owned Buss and Waeschle. Under the original setup, Georg Fischer had owned slightly more than half of Coperion, as majority owner.
But in the fall of 2002, Georg Fischer turned majority ownership over to its equity partners, London-based West Private Equity Ltd. and Westdeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale of Dsseldorf, Germany. Georg Fischer, which wanted to focus on its core businesses, said it would retain a minority stake but would no longer be involved in the daily management of Coperion.
Coperion officials also announced a restructuring to realign the three units. The company closed a Waeschle sales office in Germany, and consolidated both Waeschle's and Buss' U.S. assembly operations into Ramsey.
Van Bakergem, 51, comes to Coperion with a background in sales and marketing and management turnarounds. The native of Holland has worked in a variety of industries such as paper converting, automotive products and distribution.
He said the new majority owners hired him to reduce costs and change how Coperion sells and services machines.
``I was brought in to give a new impulse to this company,'' van Bakergem said Aug. 29 by telephone. ``This company has a good reputation, and this company has excellent machinery.''
One change is to decentralize Coperion into seven U.S. geographic centers, each representing all of Coperion's businesses. In the past, the company has operated from the central point of Ramsey, he said.
He said the company is ``shifting the power to the field, decentralizing operations, making yourself as lean as you can to survive this horrible period and get fit for the future.''
Compounders and resin producers - Coperion's customers - see their customers, the plastics processors, losing work to China, so they are cutting back on ordering machinery, he said.
``We are struggling, like many companies,'' Van Bakergem said. ``In view of a dramatically changing marketplace ... there is a definite need of adapting our organization to our new marketplace,'' he said.
He would not rule out future layoffs. ``What we are doing is, we have to adapt this organization to a constantly changing climate out there. So there could be some more changes coming,'' he said.