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42-Year Industry Veteran Discusses Leadership Perspectives In December 2010, Sud-Chemie

AG, Munich, and Ashland Casting Solutions, Covington, Ky., began the joint venture known as ASK Chemi- cals GmbH, a global foundry con- sumable and technical services pro- vider. With more than 37 years in the industry at that point, Dan Salak joined the company as president of ASK Metallurgy Group, playing a leading role in the synthesis of the two previously independent opera- tions. One of his primary tasks, as he saw it, was internally focused: create a new company culture, one that was uniquely ASK, instead of simply combining the existing ap- proaches of both Sud-Chemie and Ashland. “We had people who were suc- cessful with the old ways of doing business,” Salak said. “But for us to continue to improve, we needed to focus on our new business model and our new company.” Now, five years after those initial steps in the cre-

preferred to stay with the methods they had used for decades. The thinking was it is a new company but with a suc- cessful lineage. Why recreate the wheel? “But our company had

changed, our customer’s needs had also changed, and finally our capabilities had changed. This meant we too had to adapt in order to align with the changing environment.” Fortunately, the methodol-

ogy started to take hold and the result was as expected. “When you can get people

Salak led the formation of ASK Chemicals, which began as a joint venture between Sud-Chemie AG and Ashland Casting Solutions in 2010.

ation of ASK Chemicals, Salak has announced his re- tirement. The timing comes at a point where, in Salak’s view, the company is well established for continued improvement, thanks in large part to the cooperative effort of the ASK team and those in leadership. “We’re in a good po-

sition,” he said. “There are areas where we can improve but, at a certain point, you say to your- self: We’ve established a distinct ASK culture and they’re ready to take it to the next level.” With a perspec-

in leadership positions on- board to buy in, you start to see problems melt away,” Salak said. “Different areas of the organization operate more smoothly and problems are

solved independently. It’s cliché, but it’s true: You need the right

people and the right strategy.” While the process of building a new corporate

“Our company had changed, our customer’s needs had also changed, and our capabilities

tive that comes along with a half-decade of experience, Salak knows the importance of a dedicated team seeking a common purpose. This is especially true when trying to implement new strategies. A part of human nature resists change but certain advan- tages were on Salak’s side. Buying into ASK, as a new endeavor with a new focus, meant great possibilities to add value to the industry. “Our greatest hurdle was convincing a few col- leagues that change was essential,” Salak said. “They

16 | MODERN CASTING December 2015

had changed. Tis meant we too had to adapt.”—Dan Salak

identity appears to be in the rearview mirror, the transition to a new leader is underway. Luiz Totti, formerly general manager-Brazil and VP-South America, will now take Salak’s place. With ASK since 2012, Totti sees plenty of promise in his new role within the company’s execu- tive team. “It will be a per-

fect mix of challenge and opportunity,” he said. “It will be an exciting challenge to take over a fantas- tic team that’s well

prepared and focused, while replacing an experienced, successful foundryman in Mr. Salak.” For Salak, after meeting with dozens of members of the ASK team at its annual business meeting, he found confirmation that his decision to retire was the correct one. From his perspective, the team was col- lectively aligned towards a common goal. “The best thing for me to do now was to get the heck out of the way!” he said.

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