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Graham Engineering buys Welex, moving production to York, Pa.

By: Bill Bregar

July 1, 2013

Graham Engineering Corp., the York, Pa.-based blow molding machinery maker, has acquired Welex Inc. and will move manufacturing of the sheet extrusion lines to York.

Graham Engineering announced the news July 1. Terms were not disclosed for the deal, in which Graham buys Welex from the Hendrickson family. John G. Hendrickson founded Welex in 1967.

David Schroeder, former president and CEO of Welex, has been named president of Graham Engineering. The current Graham Engineering president, Wolfgang Liebertz, has assumed the role of CEO of the combined Graham Engineering/Welex organization.

Graham Engineering’s parent company, Graham Group, also in York, is building a plastics machinery platform. Last fall, Graham Group bought a controlling interest in American Kuhne Inc., which manufactures single-screw extruders in Ashaway, R.I.

Combined with the Welex deal, Graham Group now is a player in machinery for blow molded packaging and industrial parts, sheet extrusion for thermoformed packaging and extruders used to make medical tubing, pipe and profiles.

The three machinery companies have a total of 140 employees, said Bill Kerlin, chairman of Graham Engineering. Kerlin also is chairman and CEO of Graham Capital Co., which manages investments of the Graham family.

Graham will move Welex’s manufacturing from Greenville, N.C., to Graham Engineering in York, but Kerlin said the move will happen gradually.

“It’ll be an orderly transition. We’ve got a strong focus on serving our customers, so we’re just going to do it in an orderly manner,” he said. The Hendrickson family will retain the Welex headquarters building in Blue Bell, Pa., outside of Philadelphia.

Kerlin said Schroeder has a good business background to head up Graham Engineering/Welex. Before joining Welex in mid-2011, he was an executive at blow molder Constar International LLC, packaging maker Tetra Laval Group and blow molding equipment maker Sidel Inc.

Donald Graham founded Graham Engineering in 1960, and the company played a key role in the growth of blow molded plastic packaging. “We welcome the addition of the Welex technology and team to the Graham Engineering and American Kuhne complement of leading technologies, businesses and talent to our technology platform,” Graham said in a prepared statement.

Kerlin, interviewed by telephone, said Graham does want to add more machinery companies, but he added that “we’re going to do it selectively, where it makes sense.”

Kerlin said Kuhne and Welex both have “a very intensive customer focus,” which was attractive to Graham Engineering.

“Our strategy is that, the machinery business is a fairly ‘lumpy’ business. It has its peaks and valleys. What we’re really seeking to do is to build a stronger, more diverse base and platform so that we can attract and retain some of the best talent in the industry,” Kerlin said.

The Hendrickson family will continue to own bimetallic barrel maker Wexco Corp.