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With a new name in hand that undercuts its ties to agriculture, rotomolder Behlen Engineered Plastics Inc. is pursuing its plan of becoming a custom plastics house and adding thermoforming to the bill.

Formerly called Agri-Engineering Inc., the rotational molder plans to invest as much as $1.5 million in new plastics equipment at its Goshen, Ind., headquarters plant, said Rae Johnston, president. Part of that investment includes adding its first vacuum forming machine this month, a three-station rotary made by Central Automated Machinery Inc. of Gladwin, Mich.

BEP will use the machine, which has a 6-foot-by-12-foot bed, to form plastic parts for proprietary products, such as cattle boxes, made by sister firm Universal Livestock Equipment, and for custom work, which is becoming a larger piece of its total business, Johnston said. The company is the only plastics unit of privately held parent Behren Manufacturing Co., based in Columbus, Neb.

Parts for the proprietary product lines will use only about 20 percent of the high-speed Cam rotary machine's capacity, he said. Behren was outsourcing those parts.

``We're looking at custom work in the truck and bus fields mainly, and we're already tooling door frames for buses,'' he said.

To double plastics manufacturing space at Goshen to 120,000 square feet, Behlen will transfer a metal product line there to Nebraska. BEP, which also recently installed a 5-axis computer numerically controlled trimmer at Goshen, expects to add other plastics production equipment there later this year, including a fifth carousel rotomolding machine and second vacuum former, Johnston said.

Funding for the Goshen expansion is coming from state-issued bonds totaling $5.4 million, but Behren has earmarked more than $3 million of that to open a steel building products facility in Connersville, Ind., he said.

The name change reflects a growing custom business and less emphasis on Behren's livestock products, he said. In the next 11/2 years, Johnston said, he expects thermoforming to boost total sales by $2 million to $3 million. This year sales were about $8.5 million.

Its main rotomolding business includes making live wells and steering consoles for boats; water tanks and wheel well covers for recreational vehicles; luggage racks and engine covers for trucks and buses; and parts for industrial carpet cleaning equipment for Electrolux Corp.'s plant in Elkhart, Ill.

BEP also has one rotomolding machine in Columbus.