SOUTH ELGIN, Ill.—The Maplan Days of Technology event June 5 marked the grand opening of a new facility for Machinery and Planning Inc., a member of the global Maplan Group.
But Maplan CEO Wolfgang Meyer's welcome speech also included the retirement announcement for the company's current president, Pat Hook.
Hook, who has been with the company for 30 years, according to John Mohl Jr., regional sales director, will be retiring this summer, as Devan Lokagariwar takes up the position July 15.
Lokagariwar has been working with Maplan since 2016, when he joined to help the company oversee the establishment of its facility in Changzhou, China, he said.
Before coming to Maplan, Lokagariwar worked with Kloeckner Desma Elastomertechnik GmbH in India as a general manager, and had been with the company for almost 20 years, he said.
After the opening of Maplan's Changzhou facility, the ultimate goal was to bring him to the U.S. in light of Hook's upcoming retirement, Mohl said.
"Devan's going to be a big rejuvenation for us, because he's more of a business-oriented mindset toward how to run operations," Mohl said.
Lokagariwar said one of his goals is to help the company with a larger internal target of "30-20-10," that is, $30 million in sales in Europe, $20 million in the U.S. and $10 million in Asia by 2020. That U.S. number means doubling the current sales in the region, he said.
"I'm sure we will do it. No reason why we should not do it," he said.
Part of the explanation for Lokagariwar's confidence is the return of manufacturing to the U.S. with new government policies in place, he said.
"Mainly, decisions were made in America, but the machines were going to Mexico, China. Now, expect manufacturing to come back to the U.S., and we have to prepare ourselves for that," he said. "We will have machines installed in the U.S. more and more."
Production in the U.S. isn't the same as elsewhere, with differences in labor costs and availability of labor in general, he said. As manufacturing groups come back, there will have to be some changes in how the parts are made. Customers, having produced a part for 10 cents in China, will want to produce it for 8 in the U.S.
"The same part, when it comes back to the U.S., has to be produced in a more automated way, with bigger machines with more cavities, so you have fewer people required," he said. "For economic viability, it has to be produced in a very innovative way.
Manufacturing companies will continue to see those challenges in the next few years, and Lokagariwar wants to continue with Maplan's template in Europe of using experience with automation to meet those goals, he said.
"My experience, which has been in application development from the beginning, will help," he said. "Because I know the process. Not only knowing the machine, but how they're used."
Lokagariwar will lead for the U.S. from the South Elgin branch, and eventually will oversee operations across Central America and South America, Mohl said. Maplan started support of sales and service over the last two years in Mexico, and the company is treating the Americas as one unit.
"We're going to be looking at the Americas holistically, to be able to have them all under our supervision, to ensure that everything's being taken care of as a whole," Mohl said.
Lokagariwar said he will carry the momentum of his work in China to the U.S. in working with his new team, including lessons on how to be flexible. Each country has its way of doing business, but working across cultures means showing trust in your local team.
"The team is the key. It's always people, people, people," he said. "The building, and investment and ROI, technology and software—this is a people business. We have the right team and experience, and this time has given us the opportunity to make use of it."
Some of those opportunities come with the new location in South Elgin, with the space to stock some machines, which will lessen delivery times, he said. One of his major projects is to reduce delivery time, with goals of eight to 10 weeks for most standard machines.
Another goal is to make sure both his team and customers are trained on new machines, and on how to get the most out of new features.
"As machines get more and more complicated, the training becomes more important," he said. "When you install the machine, just running through it doesn't help. It has to be follow-up visits, follow-up training and seminars. The Days of Technology, what we're doing right now, those things are getting more important than they were in the past."
Building a team
Maplan currently is trying to expand its team of employees, with short-term plans in place to manage capacity levels and long-term plans on the horizon to make up for employees eventually leaving via retirement, he said. But in the past few months that he's had to acclimate to his new team in the U.S., he sees people with the same view of the industry as he has.
"We have the same thinking, and I don't think I need to do anything out of the box," he said. "Everybody knows where we are going, and how we are going. I have to give them all the support possible."
Lokagariwar said keeping up with technology and connecting customers with the right products will require a change in how they think about the machines themselves.
"In simple words, we were selling machines. Now we will be selling projects," he said. "Projects have multiple responsibilities. The mold becomes part of it, automation becomes part of it. With Industry 4.0, the final video checking machine will speak to the main molding machine. Machines up and down the line will talk to each other. It's going to happen."
But succeeding in the industry means building relationships with the people in charge of those machines beyond just the point of sale, or two families coming together when a couple marries, he said.
"The top-level people are involved, and they become part of your family," he said. "If you go out and buy an iPhone, that relationship ends when you buy it and leave. For a machine, it starts when you buy. It's very long term."
Understanding those relationships is part of the reason that Lokagariwar is working with Hook through the summer, learning how each customer prefers to be dealt with, and the reasoning behind it, he said.
"He has to tell me all of the customers in America, and all their history," he said. "Know-how is easy to transfer. The know-why is very difficult to transfer. But we'll do it. Pat's going to always be available for us."