Volume 14, Issue 7- September 2013

Feature

Fitting the ďBillĒ Meet the New Quanex CEO
by Tara Taffera

The designation of William (Bill) C. Griffiths as the new president and CEO of Quanex in early July, may have seemed like a sudden change. Indeed, it came on the heels of the unexpected resignation of David Petratis, former CEO, who resigned to accept a position with Allegion and Griffiths tells DWM magazine that the Quanex board was shocked. But that doesnít mean they werenít prepared.

DWM sat down with Griffiths just two and a half weeks into his new role to find out what change to expect, what his immediate focus will be and challenges facing the Houston based company.

DWM: Why do you feel you are the right executive to be the new CEO?
Griffiths: Well I have more than 30 years experienceómuch of it international. I have worked all over the world and clearly part of our strategy is to expand globally. I also have had direct involvement in building products through the modular and manufacturing housing business, which gives me some relevant experience. I have been on the board for a four-year period which gives me a detailed knowledge of the strategy and, in fact, I have been very involved in working with the management team on that strategy. As a result, I also know all the senior and developing middle managers etc.

DWM: Is this an interim position or long term?
Griffiths: Itís long-term. On June 4 even before this [Petratis resigned] we had a succession plan in place: we always have a plan for an emergency situation. Should that situation arise, we had decided that we would pick one of three directors, myself included, and decided we would tap one of them. We plan for an emergency situation generally, but we never make a specific final determination until that happens. As it turned out, David resigned and this was equally as sudden and quite frankly surprising as any of the situations for which we had planned.

DWM: I know Quanex had some layoffs across all segments recently. Why was that necessary?
Griffiths:
The issue for us is that we are in the middle of a massive project to put in a company-wide Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. The expenses on that are running higher than we had anticipated. That in and of itself wasnít the only reason for cost reductions. We also have our Nichols Aluminum business that is suffering from depressed prices and that situation is impacting financial results. David put a cost reduction program in place and that is past us now. I donít expect another wave [of layoffs] absent a material change in the environment.

DWM: How are you facing those challenges of supply/pricing issues related to aluminum?
Griffiths: What I am doing now is my own review of the cost structure of the business and my own detailed review of operations. It is too early to tell if we will have to make further changesóit has only been two and a half weeks. My expectation is that by the time we get to GlassBuild America I will be in a position to talk more openly and publicly about what we may want to do about any shift in strategy or internal changes that will be necessary.

DWM: What are the biggest challenges facing you?
Griffiths:
Itís three fold. One, itís taking a close look at where we are with our ERP implementation and where that goes in the futureóthis is a very large undertaking and is the first issue I need to get my arms around.

The second is trying to better understand what the future may hold with Nichols Aluminum as we are at the mercy of the commodity market.

Third, there is very clearly starting to be a rebound in building products. My belief is that we are at the bottom and ready to take off. The question is how fast is the recovery and how soon will it really take root. At some point, it will snap back fast and I want to make sure we will be ready to take advantage of that. y

 

 

 

 

 


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