Spending 40 years in one industry is an accomplishment. Spending 40 years with one company in one industry is an even bigger accomplishment.
That's what Bert Lederer has done at Teknor Apex Co., a major compounding firm based in Pawtucket, R.I. Lederer, 70, will retire from Teknor early next year. He had been working for Olin Corp. as PVC compounds product manager at a PVC resin plant in Massachusetts when he joined Teknor — the Olin plant's biggest customer — in 1975.
Lederer rose through the ranks at Teknor and was named executive vice president in 2001. He traveled extensively for the firm, but with the exception of a four-year stint (1977-81) at the company's California location, Lederer was based in Pawtucket for his entire career. A New Jersey native, Lederer earned an engineering degree from Tufts University and an MBA from Boston University before starting his professional life.
In a recent interview by email and phone, Lederer focused on some of the many changes he's seen in the plastic materials market. For starters, Lederer said that the consolidation of resin markets has created advanced technology for polymer production, as well as high quality and a consistent product. Consolidation also has globalized the market and expanded exports from the United States, he added.
But at the same time, Lederer said, resin market consolidation has led to high levels of capital being required for a resin plant and to high fixed costs and a narrowing of the product mix. Resin plants also now need to run at higher levels of utilization than they previously did.
A large amount of plastics business has moved from the United States to Asia since 2000, he explained, leading Teknor and other firms to locate plants there to support customers in both locations.
“Today, a substantial number of our customers have connections beyond North America,” he said. “There's been growth in the number of companies with global connections.”
New management tools such as ERP have enabled this globalization, according to Lederer. It's also been boosted by new phone and Internet technology. “Investment in [information technology] now rivals investment in production equipment,” he said.
Lederer's devotion and commitment have been recognized by his fellow managers at Teknor.
“Bert has been a leader at Teknor for 40 years,” CEO Jonathan Fain said. “His industry knowledge and leadership style has been a real asset to the growth of Teknor Apex. He has mentored many future leaders and leaves the people and the company stronger for his efforts.”
President William Murray added that Lederer “has been a prime mover in every acquisition made by our company in the past 25 years, including operations in Singapore, the [United Kingdom], Belgium, and the U.S. — these have impacted all of our product lines and have contributed to our rapid growth as a company.
“Bert has been intimately involved in the startup of our color, TPE and nylon businesses,” Murray said. “He has forged countless business relationships around the world on which our success has been built.”
In retirement, Lederer said he plans to spend time traveling with his wife, Margaret. He also plans to remain active in community service, along with consulting work.