Schaumburg, Ill. — Michael Plotzke is still learning after more than 30 years on the job at Plastipak Holdings Inc.
"A big part of the CFO role is looking at infrastructure and systems," Plotzke said in his keynote address at the 2019 Plastics News Financial Summit. "And you have to understand that technology is driven with innovation. Without it, you'll die on the vine."
Plotzke had won the Plastics News CFO of the Year award in 2018. In addition to his role as CFO, he serves as Plastipak's treasurer and senior vice president of finance.
Early in his career, Plotzke worked for the FBI before moving into accounting and finding his way to Plymouth, Mich.-based Plastipak in 1985. Today, the plastics blow molder has 6,000 employees at more than 40 global sites making more than 40 billion containers per year.
On the technology side, Plastipak has been awarded more than 1,500 patents. The firm's clients include Procter & Gamble Co., PepsiCo. Inc. and Kraft Heinz Co.
Plastipak has been involved in plastics recycling since 1989 and now recycles more than 20 billion bottles per year. Plotzke said that the firm has continued to work in recycling in the face of "an avalanche of anti-plastic messages."
Locations for Plastipak's recycling assets include three sites in Europe and one in Dundee, Mich. The firm recycles PET bottles at all four sites as well as high density polyethylene bottles in Dundee.
Plotzke said Plastipak is Europe's largest PET recycler and is the only North American bottle maker to recycle both PET and HDPE.
"We're now getting requests for five times the amount of recycled PET than we have," he added. "The issue is feedstock — where do we get the material to process?"
In new product design, Plastipak now is focused on lightweighting, which can reduce the amount of plastic needed per unit.
Other challenges for CFOs, according to Plotzke, are cross-functional collaboration and a shared focus on cash flow. Plastipak has put in place a single global human resources system to streamline functions in that area. He added that firms "need a wide strategy to handle growing health care costs."
And Plotzke said that every company eventually needs to look beyond financial statistics.
"There comes a time when you need to have a change in mindset from the bottom line to your legacy, including the betterment of the community," he added.
The Financial Summit was held May 21 in Schaumburg, just outside of Chicago.