Just 17 days into his new job as chief operating officer for Kautex Maschinenbau GmbH, Thomas Hartkämper is already getting to ready to take on a new role for the manufacturer of extrusion blow molding machines.
Next year, Hartkämper will become CEO of the Bonn, Germany-based company and replace his friend, Olaf Weiland. The pair met 20 years ago at the former ThyssenKrupp Corpoplast GmbH.
"I know him as a strong team player — that's his No. 1 strength — and he's a change-maker," Weiland said at a news conference at K 2019.
No date is set for Hartkämper to succeed Weiland. The executives agreed they will know when the time is right.
"Is it January or June or December of next year, it doesn't matter to us," Hartkämper said.
Change is a major theme for Kautex as a corporation and a K 2019 exhibitor. Company officials said their trade show slogan of "Creating Change Together" alludes to challenges on the horizon and providing sustainable added value for customers.
Weiland said Kautex is undergoing a radical change that will affect all divisions of the company in terms of packaging focus, the circular economy and digitalization. The company began taking a harder look at what was its secondary market a few years ago, he added. As sales to the automotive industry declined, Kautex beefed up its role in the packaging industry.
"A couple years ago we perceived packaging as a strong second leg of Kautex and nowadays it's clearly the No. 1 leg of Kautex," Weiland said.
He spoke near a machine called the KBB Evo, short for evolution, which is producing three-layer high density polyethylene bottles with foamed middle layers using Braskem SA's trademarked "I'm green" PE and post-consumer material.
Kautex officials say the bottles will have a "drastically" reduced carbon footprint compared to conventional bottles.
"It's not something we reacted to now by accident because of all the political discussions," Hartkämper said. "No, the idea started two years ago and now we see it."
One of the most important recent advances Kautex has made is to develop its own die head, according to Hartkämper.
"Now we have the whole plastic melt under control and we have the base for further lightweighting and more recycling opportunities," he said.