Jeff Mengel, the widely known Plante Moran guru of plastics data, is retiring on May 31. That means NPE2018 will be his last industry event.
Mengel, 62, said he wants to retire early while he still has his health. He plans to travel a lot with his wife, Nancy, and to explore the "human condition" around the world, to "deal with various aspects of humanity."
He will continue his long involvement with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Chicago chapter.
Mengel plans to do "minimal consulting" through Plante Moran, and he said he will be very selective.
And he will keep in touch with industry veterans as a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association, after getting voted into PPA last year.
As Plante Moran's plastics industry team leader, Mengel has given hundreds of information-packed presentations, sprinkled with funny insights, at industry events over 23 years. He has toured countless plastics factories. And he has headed up Plante Moran's landmark North American Plastics Industry Study, a major report that many plastics companies use to benchmark.
Plante Moran conducts the study on a continuous basis and makes two reports a year: The big general release and another one at the annual Manufacturer's Association for Plastics Processors Benchmarking Conference.
Mengel's often-repeated comment — if you participate in the survey, which is totally confidential, you get the results for free — has kept the study growing since it was started by Tim Erdmann in the mid-1990s. Erdmann left Plante Moran in 1997 to move into management and consulting positions in the plastics industry. He returned to Plante Moran seven years ago.
Now Erdmann will continue in a leadership role with the seven-member plastics industry team. Mengel said he and Erdmann are both "data-hounds" who are passionate about the plastics industry. "But he's got the scar tissue [from working in manufacturing]. I don't have any scar tissue," Mengel said.
"I'm thrilled about the fact that I have a team that can carry on," Mengel said.
The plastics team covers a broad range of areas, including operations, strategy, costing, and auditing and tax accounting.
Several team members have hands-on plastics industry experience, including Erdmann and Ted Morgan.
But when the plastics focus began, it was a team of one person. Erdmann spearheaded Plante Moran's move into plastics. He put together the first plastics study, building it from scratch. Mengel got involved to help him with the study. Then Erdmann left. It was "next man up." Or in this case, next data-cruncher.
"My partners at the time said, 'Hey, do you want to continue with this? Do you believe this stuff about plastics?' And I said, 'You know what, I do believe it.' And they said, 'OK, you're tapped. You're going to take it forward,'" Mengel said.
Mengel said his education and insights have come from analyzing about 1,900 NAPIS reports and visiting 50-100 factories a year — more than 1,000 tours over the years.
"I'm both a data nerd and industrial tourist," he said.