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hockey player Wayne Gretzky, who is quoted as saying, “I don’t go where the puck is; I go where it’s going to be.” Future opportunities are never far from his mind. “We’re in a world where things change so quickly,” he says. “I don’t want to be the guy selling buggy whips, even though I have 100 percent of the market.” Beverage container recycling owes its business model to the fact that Michigan is one of only eleven states to have container deposit legislation. It’s a particularly successful recycling initiative in Michigan because it is the only state that charges a ten cent deposit (others charge fi ve cents for the majority of containers). “That helps to increase the rate of return,” says Emmerich. “For aluminum and PET it’s around 95 percent. Glass is around 80 percent. It makes for a viable business.” But there is a limit to that business, because none of the states surrounding Michigan charge deposits (the nearest state is Iowa, and the others are scattered around the East and West Coasts). When you add to that the fact that Michigan’s population is in decline as some of the state’s traditional businesses have relocated further south, and the increasing popularity of non-carbonated drinks that do not carry a container deposit, then predicting where the puck is going to be becomes a business imperative. One place where Schupan thinks it might turn up in the not-toodistant future is in those non-deposit containers. “Because of the growth in non-carbonated beverages, waters, juices and sports drinks, we think those containers will have to be captured at a much greater rate than they have been in the past, and we’ll be part of that solution,” says Schupan. Schupan Recycling and its partner, TOMRA North America, have a trial underway with special events venues, including the Michigan State University football stadium, to collect non-deposit containers during events, to see if it can be turned into a viable business. “Any container or commodity is only recyclable if there is an economically viable market for it,” says Emmerich. “You can do things in the short term but if there isn’t an economically viable market it’s very diffi cult to sustain. But we’ll fi nd out. That’s why we’re pushing special events venues, because non-deposit containers continue to increase as a percentage of overall beverage container sales. Somebody’s got to collect them and there are other programs, but as the largest beverage container recycler in the state of Michigan we should have a decent chance of making it economically viable.” Schupan Aluminum Sales is a relatively diverse business in itself, and entirely committed to customer service. “We are a distribution company,” says president Mike Gildea. “We buy rods and bars and plates of aluminum and distribute them in smaller quantities to anybody who makes things out of aluminum. But we also do custom extrusions, and we do fabricating and machining, too.” The fabrication area has grown steadily, with an increasing diversity of customers and the addition of specialized machinery. “We recognize that there is a particular niche in the regional market,” says Gildea. “There are a lot of people out there who can do 100,000 parts pretty cheaply. There are not the same number who will do 200 parts. So we have fi lled an area that is in demand and one that not a lot of people do. It’s given us plenty of opportunities.” When I ask him about lean manufacturing, there is no hesitation in his response. “It’s absolutely a pull system,” he says. “We are continually working on lean manufacturing and becoming more effi cient. Our customers have always expected that they can order a product today at 4.30 in the afternoon and have it delivered tomorrow. We have to be good at doing that. Our competitors are all much larger than we are, and we have found ways to differentiate what we do and how we do it.” Schupan describes the aluminum side of the business as a full circle. One division sells aluminum to people who make products from it and in doing so, produce scrap. Another division collects that scrap and sells it on to the mills, who provide raw material for the next round of the process. “It works very well because we have something like 3000 aluminum distribution and fabrication customers and a good number of them produce recyclable material. And then we also handle the recycling from 500 industrial plants and those plants are potential customers for us again on the other side for aluminum, so basically we close the loop on those type of customers.” Always on the lookout for the future position of the puck, the company encourages the input of its employees. ‘What do you think?’ is an everyday phrase. “It’s important to have a culture where we can fi nd the best idea,” says Schupan, “to come up with a solution together that’s better for our customer.” November 07 Businessexcellence 17 Customerfocus Glass Recyclers is proud to work with Schupan Recycling. We are truly excited to be associated with Schupan and to provide the recycling industry with the best service for all our customers. Working with Schupan Recycling helps Glass Recyclers provide high quality product to the cullet markets, which keeps our material in high demand. Glass Recyclers

18 November 07 Businessexcellence Thomas R. Cutler finds that manufacturing CEOs are getting younger, and consequently more switched on to marketing and public relations than the previous generation Age matters