(March 1, 2003) — Robert Schad continues to be one of the most fascinating people in the world of plastics machinery — no, make that the entire plastics industry. At 75, Schad still burns white-hot for his baby, Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd., born in 1953.
His charisma brings up a fascinating question: Who can ever take his place?
Schad is one of the youngest 75-year-olds you'll ever meet, and not just because he's a sports enthusiast and outdoorsman who keeps himself in great physical shape. We're talking about his sheer enthusiasm for Husky, and for the plastics industry.
We've watched Schad at big trade shows like NPE or the K fair. Of course, he spends lots of time at Husky's booth. But he takes time to check out competitors' machinery as well. He is genuinely curious about new injection molding technology. (Although knowing Schad, he's likely to say that all his competitors' innovations are things Husky did 10 years ago!)
The intensely driven Schad brings so much to the table: Technical ability and pure passion and zest for life. His long commitment to environmental activism puts Schad on a higher plane.
Schad also is one of the plastics industry's best-known people. He makes an impression; he's legendary.
This week, we give you a story package on Schad, and Husky, by machinery-beat reporter Bill Bregar. Schad has so many dimensions that, it's no exaggeration to say, it would take a book or a documentary to really get a handle on him.
Husky has been compelling to watch as it moves from an entrepreneurial company to a publicly traded one. It hasn't always been pretty, as our story points out. Under Schad, Husky most years has pumped huge sums of money into capital expansion, building technical centers around the world, expanding its plants and adding a new plant in Vermont and now, in China. This hasn't always won favor from financial analysts worried about the next quarter.
Schad has stuck to his guns. The investment is essential, he says, to position Husky for the long run.
In recent years, Schad has talked more and more about making Husky into an enduring powerhouse. Husky's official statement of purpose is to be a role model of lasting business success, based on its core values.
This begs the questions: When is Schad going to retire? How do you replace a Bob Schad?
Most machinery people, when Schad comes up in conversation, say they can't see him actually retiring. When Husky launched a major change to a broad-line machinery supplier, Schad was there. When Husky went public, Schad was the man in charge.
Schad himself has sidestepped the issue for years. Last November, he made it official during a gala event in Toronto to celebrate his 75th birthday and Husky's 50th anniversary. He laid out a time line … sort of … for his retirement. “I have to seriously set a date, and it's going to be in the near future. Not in one year, but not in five years. So maybe in three years, I will be unemployed,” he said, drawing laughs from the assembled Husky employees and guests.
Husky has pulled off a major transformation, conducted during one of the most severe downturns in plastics machinery history. The next big challenge — moving to the post-Schad era — will be both difficult and pretty personal, all at the same time.