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Mr. Ice Bucket gains flexibility with in-house injection molding

By: Kerri Jansen

June 23, 2014

Acquiring an injection molder in Jackson, Ohio, gave New Brunswick, N.J., home products company Mr. Ice Bucket more flexibility in the production process and opened doors to expansion.

Mr. Ice Bucket began shifting production to Jackson Plastics Corp. after its owner, Frederick Haleluk, bought the plant through a separate company he created, Lancaster Commercial Products LLC. That 2013 deal also included competing hospitality product lines under the Lancaster Colony name.

For Mr. Ice Bucket, the acquisition was also about reclaiming business lost to its competitor when a series of fires — three in 10 years — caused sales delays, said Robert Haleluk, Frederick’s son and vice president at Jackson Plastics.

“We were essentially getting back those accounts that we lost at the same time as growing our own business and becoming a much larger player in the hospitality and restaurant business,” he said.

Lancaster continues to operate as a separate company, serving primarily the hotel and restaurant industries with its well-known Wescon line, with Mr. Ice Bucket continuing to cover the retail and home products markets.

“Mr. Ice Bucket is still its own company, Lancaster is its own company, but we have Jackson in the middle of all this,” Haleluk said.

With in-house manufacturing, Mr. Ice Bucket is able to tweak designs and solve manufacturing challenges faster and more cheaply than working with a third-party molder.

“We were looking to have more control over some of the items that we knew we could make better,” Haleluk said. “… It was easier for [Lancaster] to pull the trigger along the way to make those changes and transitions, whereas Mr. Ice Bucket was always working with a third-party molder or somebody else that would have to recommend changes or suggestions to a tool. But now that we have that in-house on the Mr. Ice Bucket side, it’s allowing us to do a lot more.”

Commonalities between the lines, now under the same roof, allowed Mr. Ice Bucket to expand its offerings, adding a new size of ice bucket by repurposing a Lancaster liner, for example.

“Now we’re realizing we can make Wescon items adapt to fit Mr. Ice Bucket items, so we’re getting all these added benefits,” Haleluk said.

In addition to producing items for Lancaster and Mr. Ice Bucket, Jackson Plastics is able to pursue contract molding, and is currently working on adding thermoforming capabilities to produce a line of disposable cups for an outside client.

“We’re in the process of rethinking our strategy a little bit as far as how to maneuver things around the floor and make this dedicated line fit into our footprint,” Haleluk said.

It’s Jackson Plastics’ first large-scale project outside of Lancaster and Mr. Ice Bucket products. But while the added flexibility has been beneficial to the Mr. Ice Bucket business, it may not be as practical for businesses where the molded items are not a primary product. Mr. Ice Bucket’s products — wastebaskets and serving trays, for example — don’t require extensive assembly; for other industries, such as electronics and automotive, “It might be easier to just have an outside molder do it,” Haleluk said.

“Not everyone necessarily wants to be in the molding business,” he said. “We’re more entrepreneurial. We like to figure out how to grow the business and be more in tune with the production and manufacturing part of it.”