Stack Pac Corp., with an eye on becoming a Tier 1 automotive supplier, bought four thermoforming machines from Lear Corp. The machines, from Lear's Bowling Green, Ohio, facility, now have changed hands five times in the past three years, thanks to the confusing supplier consolidation taking place among automotive plastic component suppliers.
Stack Pac, heavily involved in thermoforming since the mid-1970s, will move the machines - one Comet and three Brown machines - to its plant in Grand Rapids, Mich.
President Chris Terrasi said Stack Pac also will add an unspecified number of new employees at the plant.
``Basically what [Lear was] doing was making room for injection equipment,'' Terrasi said.
Terrasi, who declined to give the amount of his investment, said no additional manufacturing space is planned to accommodate the new machines.
Stack Pac now has 15 thermoforming machines. The company is selling one big in-line machine to make room for the new equipment, he said.
Terrasi said Stack Pac has returned to growth after a period earlier this decade when it lost one of its premier customers, Honda of America Manufacturing Inc., causing severe downsizing.
Stack Pac used to be Honda's sole supplier of trunk interiors, a business the automaker took back in-house. The company was a $7.5 million-a-year business in 1992, then sales dropped to $2.2 million in 1993, he said.
Thermoforming sales rose to $3.2 million in 1994 and $4.2 million in 1995.
The company ranked 86th in Plastics News' February survey of North American thermoformers.
Part of the growth now is from the thermoformed wheel-well liners Stack Pac makes for Chrysler Corp.'s Viper roadster, and parts for General Motors Corp. autos, he said. The company also makes plastic components for the office furniture, health-care, recreational and packaging industries, and for retail point-of-purchase displays.
The acquisition of new thermoforming capacity is part of Stack Pac's plan to become a Tier 1 automotive supplier, Terrasi said. It is now a Tier 2 supplier.
The company is already in the first tier in its supply of dunnage products - pallets and shipping products - to the automotive industry, Terrasi said. The company also is seeking QS 9001 certification for its automotive operations, he said.
The four machines purchased by Stack Pac were owned by Capitol Plastics of Ohio Inc. until April 1993, when that company was purchased by O'Sullivan Corp. of Winchester, Va.
Automotive Industries bought O'Sullivan in December 1994 and, most recently, Lear of Rochester Hills, Mich., bought AI in August 1995.
O'Sullivan continues to be active in thermoforming operations.
The company is engaged in a joint venture in Hampton, N.H., to manufacture thermoforming ma-chines with Kiefel GmbH of Frailassing, Germany. The joint venture is known as Kiefel Technologies Inc.
Lear spokeswoman Leslie Touma at company headquarters in Southfield, Mich., noted the Bowling Green facility continues to be basically an injection molding operation.
``Less than 1 percent of our business was thermoforming,'' she said.