Bob Toth • 800-394-1300
While Bob Toth is officially in charge of human resources and safety at Metalico Annaco, he pointed out that at a small company you wear a lot of hats. He started working for the company in 1988, but explained that the company has existed for much longer.
In the 1920s, the company was collecting glass, newspaper and scrap metal door-to-door. Like many recyclers that started that way, the business eventually specialized. The decision back then was to stay in the metals business.
Later, the company specialized even further, focusing on engine blocks. “Aluminum was a necessary evil coming off the line,” Toth said. “Now, aluminum can be a friend of ours, too.”
Even though the company now operates a full service scrap yard, engine blocks are still an important part of what they do. They use a proprietary process for crushing engine blocks that results in a very clean, washed cast product that Toth said was a premium product for foundries. “That’s our niche,” he said.
Like every other scrap business, Metalico Annaco had to weather the recent economic downturn. “The scrap industry usually works pretty close to the vest,” Toth said, so there wasn’t much fat to trim, so they worked at becoming more efficient.
“The commodities market is a risky business,” Toth said. “You don’t predict the market, but you anticipate the market. The old timers are real good at knowing how to buy and the pulse of the market. You have to be pretty savvy not to get burnt.” He said that unlike some industries, the scrap business isn’t something you can learn in school. “You have to live it and do it and be knocked around a few times.”
For Toth, it’s not all about buying and selling. When he first joined the company, there was no human resources (HR) department, but the owners realized the value in having someone monitoring issues like safety, health, accidents and injuries. “These kinds of things were costly,” Toth said.
Since then, Toth has built a modern HR department and has made it a goal to “hire good people from the start.” He said that he’s not looking for perfect employees, but that an “honest, reliable background” is important.
When he’s recruiting, he said that he sometimes has to convince new employees that the scrap business is not a dirty, dusty, nasty job – that it’s a high-tech business.
However, he also said that there’s “a higher learning curve and a longer learning curve” than you’ll find in some industries, but that it’s worth it. “It’s that constant battle that keeps you on edge. You hunker down and do the best you can.”
Hiring is just one part of the picture, though. Safety is a huge issue in the industry. He said it wasn’t his forte when he first came to the company, but that now he’s “a semi-expert in scrap yard safety.”
From a business perspective, if employees aren’t getting injured, the company saves the expense. “Safety is a monster that will cut your bottom line in a heartbeat,” he said. But even worse is the heartbreak of having to call an employee’s family to tell them about an accident. After all his years with the company and with only about 40 people working there, he has a lot of friends at work.
He was very pleased that the company has gone seven years without a lost-time accident, and he credits all the training and classes and safety programs that have been put in place. “There are lots of things in a scrap yard that can injure you,” he said. So employees are encouraged to always “take an extra second to do some common sense thinking” to keep themselves and those around them safe.
He sees his job as keeping the workforce running smoothly so the financial folks don’t have to worry about employee-related expenses, but also said, “They’re the life and breath of the company. They’re the thinkers and the doers.”
Toth is excited about “what’s happening outside.” He sees loads of scrap coming in that might be airplane parts, or a dismantled bridge, or just a load of random scrap, and he sees it turn into something that’s worth selling to mills and foundries. “It’s an exciting business, really.”
Since it began in the 1920s, the company was family owned, but about five years ago it was purchased by a large corporation. Going forward, Toth anticipates further corporate expansion. “They have a theme of growth,” he said. “Productive growth.” How much growth depends in part on the economy, but “if you’re not growing, then you’re going in the other direction,” he said.
While Toth was happy to work for a family-owned company, he’s also happy with the new corporate owners. “They seem to care about the employees,” he said. “I think they’re on the right path.”