LAKE GENEVA, WIS. — Steven Dyer was appointed president and CEO of Lake Geneva-based Trostel Ltd. last May, bringing more than 20 years of experience in manufacturing to the maker of precision molded seals and custom compounds.
He developed plenty of expertise along the way in polymers, particularly in plastics injection molding.
Dyer admittedly was new to elastomers and said he leaned heavily on Greg Vassmer, the firm's chief technology and quality officer, and others as he learned the differences between rubber and other polymers. Dyer recently talked with Bruce Meyer, Rubber & Plastics News' executive editor, about what he found at Trostel and what he brings to the company.
The following is an edited version of that interview.
What were some of the adjustments you had to make when you joined Trostel?
One of the main differences for me is understanding of the development and design cycle. A rubber seal, especially in the areas we play, is such a critical component that people don't make decisions lightly in those areas. There's a longer design cycle. There's a longer product validation cycle. There's a longer development and test plan. Therefore it's critical to be having those conversations today for product that fills your pipeline potentially 18-24 months down the road.
You hear a lot of talk in plastics injection about transfer tooling and transfer programs. You don't hear that going on in the rubber market. Presses are specific; tools are designed around presses. Processes are designed around secondary and value-added operations. Rubber products, for a lack of a better term, are rather sticky.
Because the industries and the markets that we serve are markets that I've served throughout my career, you always have those contacts. The nuance comes in where do you create value for that customer? We've learned as an organization that we're only going to be successful when we can bring value to that customer through design, through material selection, through speed to market, through fast prototyping. Getting it right the first time. When we can add value and really be an extension of that customer's engineering group, Trostel wins, and the customer wins. And we win because the customer sees the value and recognizes the value.
If you look at the core of the legacy of why this company has a reason to exist, this company started in 1854 making leather goods. It morphed into early seals, which were stack leather rings. That morphs into composite material. This facility was built in 1952. We've been here because throughout the years, we've been able to bring value through innovation, creativity, design and technology to a strong customer base. That gives you reason to exist.
What brought you to Trostel?
The ownership group that holds Trostel — Everett Smith Group in Milwaukee — I ran their plastics division. They brought me to Wisconsin in 2008, so I worked with Trostel as a sister company for several years. I was familiar with the products, customers, somewhat their processes, and how they were managed with common ownership.
When this position became available, I happened to be available at the time, and it happened to be a very good match.
What were your marching orders?
To define the value proposition and make sure the company was properly positioned with the right customers and the right markets that have an opportunity for growth. And to drive the growth engine, to deliver that value proposition so customers would continue to come back, and new customers would be interested in coming.
See RubberNews.com for a complete version of this Q&A interview.