In September of 1999, Fred P. Keller, the Chairman and CEO of Cascade Engineering
faced an important strategic acquisition decision.
The sales of his Container Group were
increasing and, for the first time, Cascade began to outsource some of its manufacturing.
meet demand and have a West Coast presence, Cascade signed a 90-day contract with the Lodi,
California based Phillip facility.
But right after they did this, a competitor made an offer to
Fred now had to decide whether to make a competing offer or not and, if so,
for how much.
Fred Keller and Cascade
Fred P. Keller, Chairman and CEO Cascade Engineering holds a B.S. in Materials
Science & Engineering from Cornell University and a Masters of Science in Business
Management from Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute.
He was an unusual businessman who
believed that an organization could simultaneously pursue an agenda of doing right by its
employees, supporting its community and enjoying long-term sustainability.
Indeed, he believed
that all three were necessary to create a truly sustainable endeavor.
His entrepreneurial career began in 1973, when Mr. Keller founded Cascade Engineering
following a six-year career with Pratt & Whitney Aircraft as a metallurgist.
Cascade started with
just two injection molding machines and six people.
Injection molding is a process by which
liquid plastics are injected into molds in order to create solid plastic objects such as chairs, waste
containers, automotive parts, etc.
Three years later, Cascade still had only two machines and a
The company’s first major opportunity was as a direct contractor to office
furniture giant, Herman Miller.
It took Cascade until 1983 to reach $10 million in sales.
But the mid-1980s were a time of big things for Cascade Engineering.
the development of Herman Miller’s best-selling Equa chair, along with a role in developing
acoustical barriers for General Motors, prompted the construction of a second facility in 1984,
which was then expanded in 1985.
A 1987 contract to perform decorative trim work for
Chrysler resulted in the procurement of a third facility.
Mr. Keller credits a 1983 trip to Japan with readying him and the company for these
“I became enamored with world-class manufacturing,” Mr. Keller says.
showed me that leaders in the manufacturing, engineering an design industry were striving for
performance levels that were unprecedented, and I knew Cascade Engineering had the smarts
and the resources to meet those objectives as well.”