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October 18, 2017 | by Steve Lawrence

Bankrupt Company into an Industry Powerhouse

How Jack Hockema turned Kaiser around in 15 years

Jack Hockema, CEO of Kaiser Aluminum, a keynote speaker at this year’s Aluminum Products Division Conference, did market positioning, cost cutting and productivity improvement the right way. He will share his lessons learned and best practices at the MSCI conference, Nov. 13–14 at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“We’re unique in the industry,” Hockema said in a pre-conference interview. “We’ve positioned our business in the most attractive growth segments of the industry.”  

Hockema will look at industry strengths and weaknesses today and over the next several years. He will discuss what’s driving his two core markets, autos and aerospace and the challenges ahead for both. He’ll talk about the key metrics he uses to track industry growth and the economy. And he’ll describe how he plans to overcome the “hard hurdles” as he puts it, to keep Kaiser on track in the years ahead.

“We’ve done some heavy investing for the past 10 years,” he said, “Partly for capacity increases but also in productivity improvements as well, things like artificial intelligence, robotics, sensor technologies and big data. The result is that our productivity has outstripped that of the economy as a whole. We are much more efficient than 10 years ago.

“Keeping costs under control is imperative,” Hockema said. “We are bullish on the build rates for both cars and aerospace, but the competition is intensifying. There is light weighting competition from steel and from composites. So we are looking at relatively flat sales over the next few years.”

But isn’t the slow but steady move toward self-driving cars going to begin affecting vehicle sales? “Well the car companies don’t seem to think so. They are saying that regardless of who drives, there will still be pretty much the same number of vehicles.

“But it is also clear that we are all turning more and more into tech companies,” he said. “In addition there is a lot going on in the industry outside Kaiser, perhaps other companies with major assets for sale. We look at all of those and if we see a good fit we do have the financial power to make a major acquisition.

Do not miss Jack Hockema’s keynote address at the MSCI Aluminum Products Division Conference, Nov. 13–14, at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Scottsdale, Ariz.  

To learn more about MSCI’s Aluminum Products Division Conference, click here.

MSCI’s upcoming Tubular Products Division Conference features members and subject matter experts on imperative tubular issues. See the program here.