After a day of work at Banta Healthcare Group Ltd., Mike Rasner would tinker with ways to dispense and mix materials in his garage, sometimes with four kids under the age of 5 underfoot.
At the time, Rasner was a plant engineer for the Neenah, Wis., site manufacturer of polyethylene products.
Nagged by what he considered shortcomings in the equipment on his day job, Rasner looked for ways to improve the reliability of getting material to the machine and blending in the proper ratio.
As he tended to little ones, Rasner built his first blender, including the algorithms and the controls. The blender became the predecessor of the Simplicity-brand product line, and one of those tykes just became president of the company that product helped launch, Advanced Blending Solutions LLC in Wallace, Mich.
ABS CEO Michael Rasner recently dropped the president part of his title, passing it to his son, Kane Rasner, who at age 27 is taking over day-to-day activities for the manufacturer and designer of material handling, blending, desiccant drying and controls for the plastics industry.
Kane Rasner is charged with growing the business organically and keeping the operation on its track of stability, organization and efficiency.
"I've been in the role for almost two months now, but I was broken in long before then," he said in a phone interview.
The company president sorted bolts and swept floors at ABS during the summers of his high school years. When he left for Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Mich. — his dad's alma mater — he planned to study medicine and become a doctor.
But the plan changed during winter break.
"I came home for Christmas, and my dad and I sat down and had a conversation," Kane Rasner recalled. "He said he thought I'd be an asset to the team and encouraged me to look at changing my major at school."
Kane Rasner said he didn't have to think for long about it.
"I said yes. There's daunting responsibility, but my mindset started to shift toward the business and everything it would take to move it forward," he explained.
Kane Rasner switched his area of study to engineering and worked on ABS projects on the side. Then, between his junior and senior years, he took an 18-month sabbatical to work more in-house at ABS.
"This was by design," Kane Rasner said. "I started in the controls department and spent a summer just wiring panels. That was to get a good technical base and really understand our equipment from the ground up. I spent a lot of time with the field service group doing some programming for our machines, too. So I got to see the equipment in action and any problems our customers were having. I did three to four years of a mix of field service and office work doing programming."
Kane Rasner then returned to MTU to earn his degree in chemical engineering. He graduated with a 4.0 and resumed his work as a controls engineer at ABS. He also spent time in project management and oversaw equipment installations.
Now it's time to join management.
"Some people might think 27 seems so young, but he's been working at this 10 years," Brent Berquist, vice president of sales and marketing, said in a phone interview. "He's a very intelligent, driven young man. We're in good hands."