FORT MITCHELL, KY. - A 30-year-old company that started out as a small supplier of paper gift packaging to liquor stores plans to expand its 6-month-old captive thermoforming operation into a custom outfit. In mid-May, Harbor Import Co. opened a thermoforming division to begin supplying its own thin-gauge plastic packaging for liquor gift packs. Called Harbor Thermoforming, the division spent roughly $500,000 on a Sencorp 2500 pressure former and supporting equipment, such as compressors and chillers, said John Pace Jr., Harbor's executive vice president.
Pace and Harbor Thermoforming director Larry Rosen attended SPE's Thermoforming Division Conference, Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Fort Mitchell.
Harbor spent almost $2 million a year to buy thermoformed PVC and polystyrene packaging from outside vendors, but delivery problems last year caused the Edgewood, N.Y., company to consider bringing the operation in-house, Pace said in an Oct. 4 telephone interview.
So far Harbor has produced more than 3.5 million pieces - clamshells, trays and blister packs - on its new Sencorp for liquor gift packages, a business that spans June through October to be in stores by Christmas, he said.
Rosen, with 35 years experience in heavy- and thin-gauge forming, joined Harbor in May to launch and head up Harbor Thermoforming, which operates out of a 120,000-square-foot building that houses Harbor Import's complete packaging business and assembly.
The firm uses a separate, 100,000-square-foot facility for storing imported items and finished goods.
The Sencorp is running at full capacity, already making the plastic operation ripe for expansion, Rosen said.
Harbor also is refurbishing a 30-year-old, single-station Auto Vac vacuum former for heavy-gauge work, he said. The machine has been in the shop for only two months, and right now is being used to develop a prototype product for the pet supply market, according to Rosen.
Seven people work in Harbor Thermoforming.
``We took people from the assembly area and I trained them. Within six weeks they were able to run a night shift by themselves,'' he said.
Pace said Harbor wants to break into custom and, perhaps, proprietary packaging and is considering such areas as sporting goods, batteries and food. The company attended the Thermoforming Conference to ``make contacts and learn the business,'' he said.
Richard Di Cicco is Harbor's owner and founder.