ILMA Helps Members Cope with COVID

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ILMA Helps Members Cope with COVID

Mike Damiani, CEO of Radco Industries Inc. in Batavia, Illinois, assumed the role of the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association’s 2021-2022 board president at the group’s annual meeting last October. Damiani served in a variety of roles at Radco Industries, from plant operations to field sales and international sales management, before assuming the reins as chief executive.

Lube Report interviewed Damiani about his goals as ILMA president, how he became involved with the association and how it is supporting its members as they weather the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and other industry challenges.

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What was your college education and previous career background before your current role at Radco Industries? How did you first become involved with the lubricants industry?

Mike Damiani
Photo courtesy of ILMA

Mike Damiani: Radco was founded in 1971 by my father, Robert A. Damiani, as a reprocessor of synthetic lubricants and heat transfer fluids. We celebrated our 50th anniversary in 2021. My college education was at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, and I graduated with a double major in biochemistry and philosophy. My son, Michael, was recently accepted to Tufts and wants to also major in biochemistry.

My only experience in the lubricant industry is with Radco. In high school, my first job was at a local ice cream store where I scooped ice cream and made sundaes. I always laugh about the correlation between a good sundae and a good lubricant formulation — it’s all about the additives. My dad came to me in December 1983 and asked me if I would like to work the second shift at Radco. My job would be sweeping floors and assisting in production. I’d come to work after school and work from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. When I attended college, I would work at Radco during the summers. I accepted a job as a technical sales specialist at Radco when I graduated in 1989.

How did you first become actively involved with ILMA activities and groups?

Damiani: I was introduced to ILMA through my good friend and colleague Brian Finch. Brian has had many years and many roles in the lubricant industry, and when he joined Radco 10 years ago, one of the first ideas he suggested is that Radco join ILMA. I have been actively involved with ILMA ever since.

When you agreed to become ILMA president for a term, did you have any key goals that you would like to accomplish in the role, in terms of the association and its members?

Damiani: Obviously, with COVID-19 and its effects on every aspect of the lubricant industry, our primary goal was and is to assist ILMA member companies and their employees in navigating through this crisis. Lubricant manufacturing is a close-knit community. We are all pulling on the same side of the rope, including manufacturers, suppliers and distributors. ILMA is fortunate that we are a financially strong organization, with excellent leadership from our board of directors, CEO Holly Alfano and the ILMA staff. We didn’t have to focus on ILMA’s health as an organization, but instead we could focus our energy and guidance on the ILMA membership’s needs.

Especially in these times, the value of being a member of ILMA is important and includes so many intangible as well as tangible benefits.

Are there any ILMA programs, policy work or groups that you are especially interested in or excited about?

Damiani: The development of ILMA’s international reach has been rekindled since the COVID outbreak. We aim to build relationships that enable us to support our members who are doing business abroad in an increasingly global industry. Holly and I recently attended the [United Kingdom Lubricants Association] meeting in London in November. ILMA will also attend [the Union of the European Lubricant Industry]’s meeting in Athens in October, and there is discussion on a possible Asian conference late this year. Bottom line: There is optimism that the lubricant industry will return to normalcy soon worldwide.

Last year was challenging for many of the industries that we cover. Were there any emerging challenges that ILMA members have shared, which the association hopes to assist them in meeting, perhaps through education or outreach?

Damiani: I feel one of the most challenging issues for our industry is the “silver exit.” It’s the big white – er, gray – elephant in the room. Most of the people in the lubricant industry have made lubricants an entire career. Is there a balance between new talent coming into the industry versus the career industry people retiring or leaving? We are looking at that. The other question is, how do we transfer years of knowledge and experience from someone leaving the lubricants industry to someone coming in? Education is the answer. I think all the lubricant organizations around the world have begun to address this issue.