Sponsored By

A week ago, plastics processing machine maker Milacron Inc. (Batavia, OH) voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and agreed to sell substantially all of the company to an investor group, an arrangement designed to let the company restructure itself financially, and lower its interest and debt levels. Company statements stressed the fact that it was not going out of business, but how did the company’s customers, certainly a key to its future, react? PlasticsToday spoke with Milacron CEO David Lawrence two days ago as he was hurrying to the airport.

Rob Neilley

March 17, 2009

3 Min Read
Milacron CEO: Focusing on core strengths

A week ago, plastics processing machine maker Milacron Inc. (Batavia, OH) voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and agreed to sell substantially all of the company to an investor group, an arrangement designed to let the company restructure itself financially, and lower its interest and debt levels. Company statements stressed the fact that it was not going out of business, but how did the company’s customers, certainly a key to its future, react? PlasticsToday spoke with Milacron CEO David Lawrence two days ago as he was hurrying to the airport.

eweekly_Mar2_Dave-Lawrence.jpg

Milacron's Dave Lawrence



Milacron’s Lawrence said that the company was putting the final strokes to a new strategic plan, so the details were still under discussion. But his overall take was positive: “This is a challenging time for the company and for our entire industry, but we’re optimistic that the industry will come back, and we want to position ourselves to be part of that.”

Milacron, says Lawrence, knows that it has great processing and machine technology, and longtime experience in all sectors of the processing business. He says the company basically plans to continue evolving those strengths, and he believes that Milacron can and will use its strengths to help its customers get through this downturn, “...to weather this very, very difficult time.”

As the decision was being made to pursue the present course, a detailed outreach program was put in place to communicate proactively with customers, and it was carried out, Lawrence says. It’s ongoing still, and overall it already has been very effective. Actually, that’s an understatement from Lawrence’s personal point of view.

It bears mentioning that Dave Lawrence has been CEO of Milacron only since December 1, 2008, a bit over three months. He admits that he did not foresee when he took the job, despite knowing intimately the company’s long-term financial difficulties, that Milacron would be taking such a drastic step so early in his tenure. The market, the global economy, and the financial crisis took care of that.

Lawrence calls the reaction of customers, “One thing that humbled me.” He says he was “blown away by our customers' responses.” Meetings that potentially could have been devastating instead turned out to be motivating. Milacron’s customers acknowledged that these are hard times, but they also said that the company has always been there for them, and they told Lawrence they will continue to depend on Milacron.

That ties in perfectly with one of Lawrence’s and Milacron’s main goals—helping customers become more effective. Lawrence emphasizes that Milacron’s business is about much more than bringing in new machines. He mentioned several times during our talk the need to keep a molder or extruder up and running, and that parts inventory and service response were more important than ever.

Speaking of the bankruptcy and restructuring, Lawrence sounds solidly positive. “This process can help,” he says. “As a result of it, we see ourselves being a much stronger company moving forward, with an exact focus on customer needs.” He compares the current situation to having the flu, in the sense that, once you’ve got it, the best thing you can do is get through it—and quickly. Regarding finalizing and implementing the new strategic plan, he says, “We’re not talking in terms of weeks; we’re talking in days.” —[email protected]

Sign up for the PlasticsToday NewsFeed newsletter.

You May Also Like