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Wednesday | 06 November, 2013 | 2:31 pm

A personalized scrap solution

By Lauren Duensing

Above: Sadoff Iron & Metal Co. is headquartered in Fond du Lac, Wis., but the company conducts business in 37 states and exports to China, Mexico, Taiwan, India and Canada.

In business since 1947, the Sadoff Iron & Metal Co. strives to be its customers’ preferred choice for recycling

October 2013 - A third-generation family-owned company, the Sadoff Iron & Metal Co., Fond du Lac, Wis., has been a first-hand witness to the scrap industry’s evolution. Mark Lasky, the company’s CEO, says advances in technology are helping recyclers sort material more efficiently.

“Thirty years ago when you were shredding an automobile or appliance, there was no good way to separate a lot of those metals, short of having a guy pick it out by hand, which is pretty inefficient,” Lasky says. “So a lot of those metals went into landfills.”

Today, because of eddy current systems or reverse polarized magnetic systems, there’s more recovery of those metals, he MM-1013-scrap-image1says. “Twenty-five, 30 years ago, you were probably putting 7 to 8 percent in the landfill, and now companies are down to 1 to 2 percent—if not less. I also think the awareness of environmental stewardship and ISO quality programs has also changed. There’s probably a certain element of people who remember the ‘Sanford and Son’ analogy. That was their idea of a scrapyard. Those facilities still exist, but the regulation and requirements for being in this business are becoming more stringent.”

A family history

With 252 employees, Sadoff is the largest privately held scrap company based in Wisconsin. It was started by Lasky’s grandfather, Edward Rudoy, who escaped from the Bolsheviks in the 1920s and emigrated to the United States from the Ukraine. 

“My grandfather had a variety of jobs,” Lasky says. “He was a welder on World War II submarines in Manitowoc, Wis., he worked in scrapyards, his father started a glass and window business down in Milwaukee, and in 1947, he had the opportunity to buy the Block Salvage Co. in Oshkosh, Wis. He scraped together his life savings (about $12,000), he borrowed $10,000 from his wife’s family, and he convinced a bank in Chicago to lend him $28,000.”

The company started out with three employees and in the beginning, it made just enough money to keep the doors open. “My grandfather always said, with the scrap business, you’re either the prince or the pauper,” Lasky says. “So trying to ease the pain of the down years, his idea was to diversify. He got into a variety of businesses: the Block Iron and Supply Co., a steel service center, an architectural door and frame distribution business, contractor supplies and industrial fasteners. We divested those businesses in 2006. Scrap is our main business.”

Today, there are several family members involved in Sadoff’s daily operations. Mark Lasky’s father, Sheldon, is the company’s chairman. He turned over the reins of CEO to Mark in 2008. Jason Lasky joined the company in 2000 and is senior vice president of corporate shared services. Brad Lasky joined his brothers and father in 2005 and is senior vice president of operations. Sadoff Iron & Metal has nine locations and has grown through both acquisition and greenfield operations. It has two locations in Fond du Lac—its 33-acre headquarters and a recently purchased aluminum specialty company. It also has a presence in the Wisconsin cities of Green Bay, Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Berlin, Oshkosh, as well as two sites in Nebraska. 

“How did we end up in Nebraska? We were asked to go there by Neenah Foundry,” Lasky says. “They bought a foundry in Lincoln, Neb., and they wanted to work with a company they knew. They invited us to go out there. … In 1999, we established a greenfield operation with three employees. We now have 17 employees, and we’re currently expanding from a two-acre site to a 13-acre, brand-new site. In September of last year, we bought a nonferrous company in Omaha. We really like the area out there, and we’re committed to the market.”

Sadoff does business in 38 states, is certified to export to China and, according to Lasky, will handle approximately 425,000 net tons of ferrous scrap and 110 million pounds of nonferrous scrap this year. “We’re also an e-scrap aggregator, meaning we don’t demanufacture, and we have a brokerage arm so we handle point A to point B transactions with positions and we offer scrap management services.”

Every acquisition Sadoff makes needs to make sense and fit within the company’s culture—not just look good on paper. “We bought Aluminum Resources in February of this year and Midwest Metals in Omaha in September of last year,” Lasky says. “We’re expanding our Lincoln site and we’re putting in a new scrap ERP system, which will go live in November of this year. Our current system has been really good at providing a lot of data, but we have been needing more usable information. The new system will provide more timely information and perpetual inventory information. It will be easier to get this information to our consumers and our generators of scrap.”

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A consultative approach

Lasky says the company’s goal is to be the preferred choice in recycling. It focuses on a coefficient model and a consultative approach to understanding customer needs. “We don’t come in with a cookie-cutter plan and say we can do this for you,” he says. “We listen and seek to understand. We have the size to have leverage in the market, but we’re small enough to be flexible and customizable. We look to add value and provide solutions.”

Sadoff focuses its ferrous business on foundries. “It’s probably an 80-20 mix for us, volumewise, with 80 percent going to foundries and 20 percent to mills,” Lasky says. “We’re used to tight specifications, very tight delivery, we do inventory management programs, tolling and processing and we’ve developed a proprietary product with a partner out of Canada for our raw material feedstock. We deal with close to 25 foundries on a regular basis, and we have exclusive relationships with three to four of them, so we’re used to that partnership model and we’re used to understanding that it’s not just about us. Our job is to make them profitable. The better they do, the better we do.”

Beyond its partnerships with customers, Sadoff believes it has a responsibility to its employees and community. “We’re active in our communities, and I think that stems from being a family business,” Lasky says. “We live here; we see a lot of our employees and their families outside of work. We don’t hide from that.”

Because of its roots in the community, it’s crucial for the company to focus on the soft side of business to ensure its future is strong. “It’s all about people,” Lasky notes. “We handle products, we handle commodities, we handle physical metal, but it’s people that make those decisions and actually do the work to make it happen.

“We talk about succession planning a lot,” Lasky continues. “We currently have a pretty good mix of experience and fresh faces. I’m 39 years old. I have a pretty long sunset ahead of me, so I pay attention to who is going to be around because I realize that a lot of our knowledge base and a lot of people with experience are going to retire, and we’re going to have some key roles to fill within the next five to 10 years. We try to promote from within whenever possible and outline career paths for people because in a knowledge-based industry like this you have customer specifications, metallurgy, operations and things that are important to really know. That knowledge doesn’t just grow on trees.” MM

 

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