Published on April 11, 2014

THEN AND NOW: John Finzer, Finzer Roller Inc.

John Finzer, Finzer Roller Inc.

DES PLAINES, Ill.—John Finzer, CEO of Finzer Roller Inc., is bullish on the future of his company, but believes more change lies ahead for the rubber roller business as a whole.

“When the Great Recession came, everyone was in survival mode,” he said. “The U.S. economy could have had a serious failure. Today we don't have that concern. I think there's much more stability in the marketplace.”

But there also has been negligible growth in GDP since the recession, with a growth rate too small to support the capacity within the rubber roller industry. “The net result is an imbalance of supply and demand, and the prices of our products continue to fall. Clearly it's not a healthy situation for our industry.”

Revenues for Finzer Roller fell 13 percent during the first year of the recession, but the firm's CEO said it really had minimal impact on how the company operated. “We believe that to remain viable and competitive, that it's mandatory that we invest aggressively in our capital and in our people.”

Finzer Roller looks to grow through acquisition and it continued with that part of its strategy during the downturn. “I like to think that this period has been challenging for us but that we continued to live by our strategy, and we will be rewarded for that in the long run,” he said.

The firm didn't close any facilities during the recession, but did have to make some work force cuts to match demand with its labor force, according to Finzer.

With the small economic growth and measures to make the firm more efficient, staffing has remained stagnant, he said, with current employment close to 250. “We have enjoyed sales growth, but that comes from a finite pie that is only so big. My guess is that there are competitors of ours that are losing revenues.”

Companies that can differentiate themselves with unique products, provide better delivery and service will succeed, Finzer said.

“If you can't differentiate yourself in that manner, then you are likely going to be in a position where you are competing on price, which puts burdens on manufacturers to improve their efficiency as much as possible to be competitive in our industry,” he said. “It's the same old story: The strong will survive, and the weaker players will inevitably fall out of the business.”

One key to remaining competitive as a U.S. manufacturer is to put your company in a position to meet the ever-increasing expectations of customers, the Finzer CEO said. “At Finzer Roller, we routinely spend a lot of money on improving our capital equipment and on employee training. Without these annual purchases and training, I doubt we would have been able to meet our customers' expectations and enjoy the success we've had.”

While offshore competition isn't a factor in the rubber roller business, he said he does worry about customers who move their operations out of the U.S. “We may be the best manufacturer in the world, but if we don't have customers here domestically to service, it's not a good situation,” Finzer said.

He doesn't foresee Finzer Roller setting up overseas operations, but it will continue to keep its eyes out for potential acquisitions as inevitable consolidation in the industry occurs.

“I am skeptical that the rubber roller business in the U.S. can remain status quo,” he said.

“The imbalance between supply and demand is too great. Therefore, change is inevitable. However, I am confident that Finzer Roller will be a survivor. We have excellent leadership, outstanding associates and equipment that allow us to compete at the highest level.”

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