Cascade Engineering Realigns

April 4, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — One of the leading developers and makers of injection-molded products recently completed its first realignment in six years.

The reorganization follows a year that saw Cascade Engineering Inc. raise its sales by a reported 11.2 percent and top $230 million in total sales revenue. But despite a banner sales year, the best in the firm’s 30-year history, Cascade executives felt structural changes had to be made and the realignment effort took a year to finalize.

“We realized that we needed added focus around our understanding of markets and our competitors and we needed to invest further in external resources in selling, marketing and product development,” said Michael Valz, Cascade president and COO.

“That is one of the main reasons for realigning the company, with an eye to the future,” he said last week.

With the new structure in place, the company hopes to reach a lofty goal of $1 billion in revenues someday. Cascade serves four markets — automotive, container, home and office — and the realignment will not remove any of those.

But the change will add an enhanced marketing and concept team to its Solutions Groups and the groups have been reduced — from four to three — and restructured.

Cascade Vice President of Business Services Mike Goldman told the Business Journal that the automotive acoustic and automotive trim Solution Groups were combined into a single Automotive Solutions Group; the container, home, and office groups were merged into an Industrial Solutions Group; and an Emerging Solutions Group was created.

The emerging group will include Noble Polymers, Cascade’s compounding unit; Decade Products, a joint venture between Cascade and Dolav, an Israeli material handler; and IWS, a Florida-based waste management service organization Cascade created.

“And anything new. When we create a new product and bring it to market and if it’s not within one of our other established Solution Groups, it will come under the Emerging Solution Groups,” said Goldman.

Valz said Cascade would continue to invest in new technologies through its Center for Innovation. He also pointed out that the change has centralized operations in an effort to improve the cost, quality and delivery of products to its customers.

“Centrally, we meshed our operations together here on the campus in town, and in some cases of duplication we’ve done our best to re-deploy those people around the company,” he said.

Valz said Cascade made the changes from positions of financial and organizational strength.

“All of this was done to be more competitive in the marketplace, like everyone else is doing today.”

In addition to its multiple locations in Michigan, where the firm was recognized by the state as a Clean Corporate Citizen in August, and in other parts of the country, Cascade has a presence in Switzerland, Hungary, Japan, Israel, Thailand and Shanghai.

Besides its affiliations with Noble, Decade, Dolav and IWS, the company has alliances with the Cascade Engineering Group, Dow Automotive, Pyper Products, CK Technologies, 21st Century Plastics Corp. and the Starlite Co.

The realignment resulted in the elimination of 37 full-time positions last month. Valz said no further jobs would be lost to the restructuring. Cascade employs about 700 locally and more than 1,200 in total.

“Moving forward, we will scale our employment up or down to meet business conditions. Cascade remains committed to being an employer of choice, and will continue its focus on best practices in the areas of hiring, education, motivation and culture building,” said Valz.

“However, even employers of choice need to scale employment to meet the needs of the market to be truly sustainable businesses.”

Cascade Engineering will celebrate its 30th anniversary on April 16.           

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