Earlier this week, MACtac announced the closure of its Stow, OH, manufacturing plant. That plant was the start of Bert Morgan’s venture in the 1950s. It’s a tough blow to a region clamoring for good jobs.
I am confident the management team of MACtac and Bemis did not make this decision on a whim. Despite its symbolic importance, the reality is the plant was old and used solvent adhesive technology. As the world changes, companies need to adapt. Those decisions aren’t easy. It’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback, knowing how the game played out, to say, “They should have…” We generally have to make decisions with imperfect information. If we wait until all the facts are available, someone else will have already moved forward and left us behind.
As Jim Collins (“Good to Great” author) so bluntly says, leaders must confront the brutal reality of a situation. The brutal reality is solvent based adhesive technologies are being phased out of our industry. For our industry, that’s a good thing. For the MACtac plant in Stow, OH, that’s a horrible thing. The brutal reality is modernizing that plant was most likely cost prohibitive. The better business decision was to consolidate operations in existing facilities. As I’ve written before, our industry has excess capacity throughout the value chain. The brutal reality is inefficient operations feel that pain first.
To conclude, I have a quotation from Mr. Morgan himself (via the Burton D. Morgan Foundation website, www.bdmorganfoundation.org ). Our industry became great because of people like Mr. Morgan and Stan Avery who weren’t afraid to fail. The companies that continue to take risks (calculated of course) will continue to thrive. The companies willing to confront their brutal realities will continue to thrive as well.
“. . . failure never stopped anyone who was truly determined to succeed. I have found that entrepreneurs’ failures are often more interesting than their successes, and these failures help to develop the character and intelligence that eventually led them to success. An entrepreneur who fails is not stopped. He or she can always try again. And successful entrepreneurs always do.” ~ Burton D. Morgan, Start at the Top (1982)