CRANSTON, R.I.—For Pete Kaczmarek, president and chief operating officer at Mearthane Products Corp. Inc. in Cranston, polyurethanes have always been in his blood.
Kaczmarek finishes his first year in the role this October, having joined the developer and manufacturer of polyurethane components to help take it to the next level, he said.
A chemical engineer by education, his first job was as a process engineer making polyurethanes for BF Goodrich. He spent 14 years at Rogers Corp., working as the senior vice president and general manager of the high-performance foams division. After that, he worked as the president and CEO of Astrodyne TDI Corp., a private equity-owned developer and manufacturer of power supplies and components.
He became friends during the last few years with MPC CEO Kevin Redmond, who brought him on to help the company continue to grow.
"I've worked at private companies, public companies, private equity-owned companies at senior levels, always related to specialty materials," he said. "I was very excited about it. I still am. I think MPC's got a lot of growth potential ahead of it."
MPC has centered on custom components during its 52-year run, and when much of its traditional paper-handling components business began to move offshore in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it wasn't quite large enough to follow, Kaczmarek said.
The company contracted and focused on more niche, specialized products requested by original equipment manufacturers. That left MPC in a unique position, he said.
"We have an unusual combination," he said. "We're a smaller company. We're nimble, and we can move quickly. But we also have a lot of experience working directly with very large multinational corporations."
Coming on last year, Kaczmarek's strategy was to find new ways to share MPC's technical base with a wider range of the market by emphasizing the company's value proposition as a specialty polyurethane component developer, he said. Specializing in operations, Kaczmarek studied MPC's processes and development, and looked for ways to improve execution while Redmond focused on strengthening the company's finances and acquisition abilities.
One route for Kaczmarek was reorganization of the company to upgrade capabilities from an operations management standpoint, he said.
"One of the things about a smaller company is each person makes a big impact on a smaller team," Kaczmarek said. "We have a very versatile, capable manufacturing operation, but that versatility creates complexity. You really need operations management at the supervisory and management level and engineering level who can optimize the capabilities you have."
Kaczmarek worked to "upgrade almost all our key management," he said, looking for candidates comfortable working in a smaller business footprint and experience in promoting growth.
That included people like Jose Estrela, quality assurance and improvement manager, previously manager of production, quality and regulatory affairs at International Coil Inc., and Steven Labonte, operations manager, previously operations manager at Glencore L.L.C.
Another big change in a management position came with MPC's new director of marketing, Alejandro Martinez, who came from a senior marketing manager position at Honeywell International.
"This is a new position for us, to really get our message out into the world," Kaczmarek said. "If you follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook, we're just ramping up the level of communication out to the marketplace about our value proposition. That's how design engineers hear about companies that can solve their problems these days."