PET projects fuel Heise Industries' growth

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EAST BERLIN, CONN. — Growth in PET molding is fueling mold maker Heise Industries Inc., which completed a $3.5 million expansion in April. "Over the past three years, we've invested heavily in high-speed equipment," said President Tad Heise.

The company specializes in tooling for industrial and consumer containers. It spent $1.5 million to expand its East Berlin home by 10,000 square feet, to 24,500 square feet. That includes a doubling of the engineering space to 4,000 square feet.

Heise also invested $2 million in machinery, including high-speed horizontal mills and a high-speed double-spindle mill. The company is in the final stages of purchasing a milling and turning machine, which Heise said will help turn out PET molds quicker.

Heise pointed to two reasons for its move to high-speed equipment. He said skilled labor is difficult to find and makes automation necessary. Second, Heise said that the Canadian exchange rate makes it tough for his firm to compete with Canadian companies. He said automation reduces the cost of labor per tool, so Heise can stay competitive.

The company employs 75, the same as it did four years ago, but the mix has changed — more engineers, according to Heise.

Tad Heise said the company gained certification for work on Sidel machines a year ago, which has meant great demand for Heise's tools.

"What we see with Sidel is that it can only help us expand," said Heise, who is closely watching PET beer containers as a major growth opportunity.

Miller Brewing Co. of Milwaukee had a national roll-out of beer in PET in March, while Anheuser Busch Co. of St. Louis continues to do market studies.

"In Europe, the plastic bottle is becoming quite popular," he said.

Heise sells tools in the United Kingdom and in France, where beer is sold in plastic. He also said dairy products are another growth area for PET.

The firm was founded by his father, Brooks B. Heise, in 1965.