Since it bought Blanke Plastic Co. in 1992, Harbison Corp. has worked to build its small blow molding business into a world-class contender. This month it brought Travo-matic Corp., an extrusion blow molding firm with sales of about $18.5 million, under its umbrella, according to Keith Harbison, president and chief executive. Harbison acquired Travomatic Sept. 1 from General Electric Capital Corp. for undisclosed terms. With the buy, St. Louis-based Harbison, known by its Blanke business, has more thandoubled sales and secured new market regions east of the Mississippi River.
To reflect its new identity, Blanke has changed its name to Matrix Packaging.
Travomatic fits in well with Harbison's needs, since Blanke's staple capability until now has been injection blow molding, Harbison said by phone Sept. 21. Blanke's bottles range from one-half ounce to 16 ounces, but Matrix will be able to extend that to larger bottles. Also, since equipment and tooling costs for in-jection blow molding are higher, Blanke mainly did large-volume runs to justify those expenses.
Another gain is Travomatic's plants in Seymour, Ind., and Easton, Pa., giving it better access to existing customers and opening new doors.
Another Travomatic plant in Grain Valley, Mo., and its headquarters office in nearby BlueSprings, have been closed. Equipment from Grain Valley, an 18-wheel station and a Hayssen extrusion blow molding machine, will be moved to Matrix's 100,000-square-foot plant in Hermann, Mo., where it already operates 18 injection blow, and six extrusion blow molding lines, as well as seven injection molding presses. The plant employs 110.
The Indiana and Pennsylvania plants each cover 91,000 square feet, Harbison said. Together they employ 150 and run 24 extrusion blow molding lines, including nine-station wheel machines. Matrix will begin installing injection blow molding capacity at those plants within the next few months, to satisfy customer needs for both processes, he said.
The Grain Valley plant was Travomatic's smallest, with fewer than 10 workers.
Keith Harbison was a neophyte to plastics when his investment group bought Blanke in July 1992. And now?
``I know enough about the business to know what's a good profitable business and what are good niches to be filled,'' he said.
Harbison, his father, Earle, and Ted Wetterau own the firm. About a month ago Keith Harbison bought out another investor, Bill Walker, prompting Harbison Walker Inc. to change its name to Harbison Corp. Earle Harbison is the firm's chairman.
Last year Blanke had sales of $12.3 million. With Travomatic, and a $2.5 million long-term contract recently purchased from a competitor, Matrix will see sales of between $35 million and $38 million next year, Harbison said. And the group, which is seeking other acquisitions, hopes to expand by severalfold in the next three to five years.