The Gary [Indiana] plant had had obvious problems for years. It was an ineffective operation. It had a fiefdom type of management. The people had grown complacent and inefficient. They had lost their technical curiosity. And the state-of-the-art technology was in Frankfurt. In the late '70s, when I was business manager, I tried to get them to invite Ari (the Frankfurt manufacturing and technology expert) to Gary. After months of talking, they finally invited him to get me off their backs.
In the fall of 1981, we [top management] had a meeting reviewing our 10 year plan. I said that I was going to shift production of Release-ease and another product from Gary to Frankfurt as fast as possible. I almost got punched in the mouth for that. We had been working on the Gary plant for years. But we hadn't accomplished anything!
J. S. (Joe) Spadaro, Vice President and Director of the Plastics Business, was discussing the conditions in Release-ease manufacturing that had led him to request a study of comparing productivity at Applichem's four Release-ease plants. He had requested the study in June 1982, and it had been finished in September 1982.
Spadaro had joined Applichem in 1956 when he was 27. His bachelor's degree was in mechanical engineering, and he had held several jobs prior to joining Applichem, including managing a machine shop, but not including anything related to the chemical industry. His first assignment had been in Italy where he spent 10 years; then he had spent 5 years in the U.K. before returning to work at corporate headquarters in Chicago.
Applichem was a manufacturer of specialty chemicals founded in Chicago just before World War II. Most of its products were devised by Applichem's applications engineers as solutions to specific customer problems. Applichem's Research Department subsequently refined the product and process—in successful cases—to arrive at a product with broader...