Pro Mach is one of North America’s largest providers of integrated packaging products and solutions for food, beverage, household goods, and pharmaceutical companies. Bill Schult has been Pro Mach’s vice president and chief financial officer for more than ten years. He’s been instrumental in guiding the company in its growth over the years, nimbly dealing with the challenges and adapting to the changes within a dynamic industry. The business was bought in late 2004 by a private equity firm and the new CEO in charge made the decision to move the business to Cincinnati, Ohio.
At the beginning, the challenge was not only to learn about the packaging industry, but also to learn how to work with the new owners of the business, according to Schult. “It was a clean slate,” he says. “They didn’t even have office space. We had to select a location, build it out, hire our team, put in our strategies to learn what the private equity owners wanted, and learn how to work together. It was a big challenge.”
The challenge was an opportunity to be creative—and successful. “Our management team developed and put in place an organizational structure that has resulted in our tremendous success over the last ten years,” Schult says. “It has resulted in [the business] being successfully sold two times while I’ve been here. We took what was formerly a collection of independent businesses and turned them into one company, Pro Mach.”
One of the keys to Pro Mach’s continuous success is the creation and focus on integrated packaging solutions. Processors and consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs) that put together a packaging line for a new product often have to work with multiple packaging machinery suppliers, according to Schult.
“They’d rather not source machines from different suppliers, but that’s how the industry has been built,” he says. “One of the things we’ve done is offer more integrated bundles of machines so they don’t have to deal with different suppliers.”
Part of Pro Mach’s successful growth that goes hand in hand with integrated solutions is the acquisition of companies that can make that integration possible. “By positioning themselves as one of the major players in the field, we can take a much larger share of the packaging line than any one of our competitors could,” Schult explains. “We’ve built up our portfolio through acquiring companies and technologies that allow us to offer more complete lines and ultimately make it easier for our customers to get their products into the marketplace. As a result, the major CPGs like dealing with us.”
Schult’s vision for growth is to continue extending Pro Mach’s reach outside of the North American market. Pro Mach recently established a physical presence in the Mexican market, establishing an operation in Monterrey. In 2014, it acquired a company in France—its largest acquisition to date. “We continue to look at Latin America, Europe, and anywhere else where there’s a company with great products, good people, and outstanding post-sale support,” he says. “We can be selective and look for businesses that fit what we do and that fit our culture.”
Pro Mach’s overarching strategies include integrated solutions and global support for customers, and consistent execution across the company and throughout all divisions. For Schult, consistent execution is crucial. “For customers that order individual machines from a number of Pro Mach brands—even if it’s not an integrated solution—we want those customers to have a consistent experience across Pro Mach,” he says. “These systems could be on completely different lines, or even in different factories, but they all should have the same high quality and high performance so the customer experience is seamless.”
Maintaining consistency in the tumultuous packaging industry is challenging, but Schult knows how Pro Mach stays ahead of change. One major industry trend is more and more customers are looking to flexible packaging, and historically, products have come in rigid packages such as cans and bottles, according to Schult. “There’s a big trend to move from rigid to flexible. We’re making sure that we get our share of that business,” he says. “In addition to making our own flexible packaging machines, we also have exclusive distribution agreements with several other foreign manufacturers of these machines. This allows us to offer customers a full range of flexible packaging solutions to accommodate any needs.”
With such clear vision, Pro Mach has doubled in size twice in the last ten years, and Schult anticipates further expansion. “Our emphasis is on growth, and more specifically, it’s on profitable growth,” he says. “There’s a lot we are able to offer our customers that many of our competitors simply cannot, and we’re very excited about the future.”