Looking Forward to Challenges.
It has been an extremely active 2000 for Flint Ink Corporation. As the company was still integrating the October purchase of the Sacramento, CA-based The Ink Company into its operations, the company acquired the Alper Ink Group, another U.S. ink manufacturer with more than $150 million in annual sales.
Flint Ink also made its debut at Drupa, bringing its Single Fluid Ink concept technology among other innovations to the printing industry.
In addition, Flint Ink has made a number of personnel moves. In particular, Flint Ink named Paul L. Schroeder president of the company's North American operations as of Jan. 1. Mr. Schroeder, formerly the senior general manager of Cabot Corporation's carbon black division, has wasted no time learning the printing ink industry Now, eight months later, Mr. Schroeder has continued integrating Alper's diverse ink companies into Flint Ink, and helped put a top-flight management team in place.
As Flint Ink looks toward the future, its leaders are expecting good things from Mr. Schroeder.
"We are expecting a large contribution from Paul as president of our North American ink group," said H. Howard Flint II, chairman and CEO of Flint Ink. "He is a seasoned executive who has managed several business units in the chemicals industry Since the beginning of this year, I have watched him use consensus style management to build teamwork within his group.
"We wanted someone who could bring value to our customers and our shareholders and be recognized as a leader in the North American ink industry" Mr. Flint continued. "We wanted an experienced executive with a chemical background and above average intelligence who could work well within our company. I look to hire people whom I would enjoy having dinner with on a free evening."
"We were seeking a seasoned executive with experience in a general management role in large process industry operations," said Leonard D. Frescoln, president and COO of Flint Ink. "Paul fit our profile very nicely."
Goals and Opportunities
Mr. Schroeder said that the opportunities Flint Ink has created for the future convinced him to join its management team.
"When I looked at coming on board as the president of Flint Ink - North America, I was significantly impressed with the growth and modernization initiatives underway," Mr. Schroeder said. "Initially I was not familiar with the management team, nor did I think the ink industry had significant potential for business or technological innovation.
"However, the Flint management team completely reversed my thinking, and after several discussions I was ready to buy into their vision," Mr. Schroeder said. "With my chemical process industry background and strong general management track record I added some diversity to the already seasoned management team. It felt right."
Working with the company's leadership, Mr. Schroeder set some key goals.
"My goals were quickly and easily focused into two areas: first, to grow the business while delivering exceptional value to customers, and second, to move the business to a level of reinvestment economics. To achieve this mission, it would require a continued emphasis on acquisitions, improved manufacturing efficiencies, new product developments and appropriate price actions."
One area of change was to create a more aligned management team. The second goal was to raise prices in certain segments. Mr. Schroeder believes these goals have been achieved.
"In the first few months things are on track," Mr. Schroeder said. "We have initiatives specific to all four of our North American divisions -- news ink, publication, packaging and commercial. The news ink division, led by Roy Beagle, VP general manager, recently announced an 8 percent average price increase with the belief that buyers would understand the critical nature of this first upward adjustment in approximately five years. With this increase and the customers' support we have begun to reinvest in critical projects to ensure added value and reliability from Flint."
Consolidation and Growth
During Drupa, Mr. Schroeder stayed in the U.S., working on the Alper Ink Group consolidation. Flint Ink's expanded packaging division, led by VP general manager Paul Howes, is concentrating on bringing Alper's group of small companies under the Flint Ink umbrella.
"In the packaging division, the focus is on combining the new Alper Ink Group -- including Progressive Ink, Patriot and Arcar -- to form the second largest ink company serving the packaging market," Mr. Schroeder said. "Alper brought a lot to us in terms of technology and people who offer expertise that we have not had in the past. We believe the synergies from the combined companies coupled with a broader portfolio of technology will enable Flint Ink to better serve our customers' needs and provide us economies of scale to more effectively compete. We need to marry the best of Alper to the best of Flint.
"However, this will not be enough without further investments in research and some changes in our price structure to reflect the range of value and special services that this market expects," Mr. Schroeder added.
There is also the further integration of The Ink Company, which is proceeding. "The publication division, managed by Bill Miller, VP general manager, is focused on consolidating The Ink Company operations," said Mr. Schroeder.
"Additionally, we are partnering with customers on initiatives to reduce total supply chain costs that in most cases lower the total cost of ink even considering the recently announced price increase. Design of Experiment (DOE) has been an especially useful tool in tackling many multi-variable customer problems to deliver real science-based solutions.
"Our commercial division is managed by a new VP general manager, Jim Bennett," Mr. Schroeder said. "Jim is implementing a strategy for the commercial offset business that will ensure we successfully meet the needs of the varied customer segments in this key business. It is a market equal to approximately 30 percent of North American demand for ink and one that we expect to provide growth and profitability."
In recent years, Flint Ink has put a strong emphasis on international acquisitions, purchasing the U.K.-based Manders Premier in 1998. The 1999 acquisitions of Companhia Quimica Industrial Brasileirao of Brazil and Argentina's Polychem SA added further evidence of Flint Ink's emphasis on globalization.
This is an area where Mr. Schroeder brings his own experiences. Mr. Schroeder is a graduate of the University of Missouri in chemical engineering, the Darden School, University of Virginia and Harvard's AMP program. Prior to joining Flint Ink, Mr. Schroeder built worldwide business teams and organizations for Cabot Corporation and for FMC Corporation, where he served as director of marketing, director of national accounts, director of manufacturing and general manager for FMC's Peroxygens Division and general manger for FMC's Lithium Company.
"Globalization is an area where I can add value by helping align Flint's efforts across geographic boundaries to support the needs of growing global companies," Mr. Schroeder said. "My philosophy of globalization is to follow the big customers. A Quebecor World or R.R. Donnelley & Sons want certain products and certain services. These companies require supplier partners who are knowledgeable about their needs and can supply consistent products on a worldwide scale. If we can supply them both locally and globally, we're confident we can satisfy customers who don't have a global reach.
"My general management experience over the past 12 years has entailed a great deal of international operations experience including joint ventures and acquisitions," Mr. Schroeder continued. "My job at Cabot Corporation was specifically focused to globalize the carbon black business while ensuring predictable returns."
There are other challenges that also intrigue Mr. Schroeder.
"The fun for me at Flint Ink lies not only in the area of globalization," Mr. Schroeder said. "Another area is the opportunity to develop and motivate some of the best people in an environment where everyone is allowed and encouraged to reach their full potential. I plan to achieve this goal by creating a learning organization that is given the tools, training and exposure to stretch to new levels.
"I find it really refreshing working in such a fluid process," Mr. Schroeder added. "There's a lot of freedom and flexibility to run your business. It allows you a lot of latitude to do your job, but senior management is also very accessible. I like the management team. They are acquisition-oriented and have a great business process."
Now that Mr. Schroeder has had eight active months behind him, he can prepare for the long-term plans of the ink manufacturer.
"Between acquisitions, new product introductions and improved processes and efficiencies in manufacturing, Flint has the opportunity to develop further our strategic position and create opportunities," Mr. Schroeder said. "We can bring more to our customers.
"In moving into the next five-year business cycle, I believe the printing industry still has a future that is critical in the emerging e-revolution," Mr. Schroeder added. "We will adapt to less growth in print demand over the next decade while capitalizing on the packaging and commercial applications that will continue to grow at a rate in excess of 5 percent. With fewer suppliers capable of meeting the complex needs of demanding global customers, Flint Ink will continue to adapt to our environment and maintain a key position in the ink and related service industry."
If Mr. Schroeder achieves all of his goals, Flint Ink will be well-situated for 2000 and beyond.
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|Date:||Sep 1, 2000|
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