Stronger finances, safety part of retiring CEO's legacy at GrafTech
After almost 40 years in the steel industry, Dave Rintoul had long been a customer of GrafTech International Ltd. GrafTech in Brooklyn Heights is a maker of graphite electrode products used in steelmaking. Rintoul took on the role of president and CEO for GrafTech on March 1 of 2018. Rintoul had been part of private companies and public ones throughout his career, but he had never been part of taking a company public. For Rintoul, that whirlwind start — the company was on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "EAF" by the end of that April — was just the beginning of his time with GrafTech. A February news release noted that Rintoul planned to retire as the company's president and CEO, as well as from the board, by the end of June, or later, based on when a successor was named. But Rintoul said the company is positioned so its next leader may be able to help it to grow.
The year before Rintoul came on board, GrafTech's finances were just about breaking even. That's significant, but Rintoul said he's most proud of the improvements he has overseen in safety at GrafTech. "Because of my years in manufacturing, I have a fundamental belief that companies that are sustainable over the long haul can only be that way if, particularly in the manufacturing world, if they can get safety and the environment right," Rintoul said. When he arrived at GrafTech, the company's recordable incident rate, an OSHA measurement for on-the-job injuries or illness, was about 1. "Everybody that comes to work each day expects to go home the exact same way they came in. The company has to do the work to meet those expectations. Rintoul said it has been the people that have made his job at GrafTech enjoyable, both the company's approximately 1,300 employees and its customers across the globe.
"I think that's true of most of things in life," Rintoul added. "I graduated on a Friday and started work in the flat-roll mill on a Monday," Rintoul said. He recalls that his first post-college job was learning how to roll steel. He was doing shift work, trading all of his day shifts so he could work at night and attend school during the day. Rintoul ultimately earned his bachelor's degree in business administration from Lake Superior State University, as well as, later, an MBA at the University of Notre Dame. And as he reflected on his career, it's clear he still enjoys the work GrafTech helps make possible. "Being a former steelmaker — I guess I still consider myself one — it's always a thrill for me to walk into a melt shop when the arc is being struck in an electric arc furnace," Rintoul said.
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