AKRON, OHIO — Maac Machinery Corp. has acquired its second thermoforming machinery maker in the past 11/2 years, Central Automated Machinery Inc. of Gladwin, Mich.
The acquisition follows Maac's purchase of Comet Industries Inc. in November 1996. Maac, now ``bursting at the seams'' in its 25,000-square-foot plant in Itasca, Ill., is looking for a much larger building to remain in the Chicago area, said Paul Alongi, Maac's chief executive officer and owner.
In both cases, Maac purchased the assets of a rival maker of heavy-gauge sheet-fed thermoforming machines, and moved the assets to Itasca.
The deal, for undisclosed terms, closed in late March. Maac bought the assets of CAM, which filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Michigan in February, Alongi said. CAM employed about 20 and had sales of $2.5 million.
Former CAM owner Bruce Smith will join Maac in a major sales position. Maac also extended offers to other CAM employees to join Maac in Illinois.
Alongi discussed Maac's strategy in an April 14 interview at Plastics News' Akron office.
Alongi, who founded Maac in 1982, thinks the CAM purchase probably makes his company the largest manufacturer of heavy-gauge, sheet-fed thermoforming machinery in North America.
``Projected sales for the combined firms is expected to be in the range of $14 million. If this doesn't put us in the position of No. 1 in sales on the North American continent, then we're awfully close,'' he said. He noted that 27 percent of sales come from outside the United States.
Maac's biggest competitor in sheet-fed machines, Brown Machine of Beaverton, Mich., believes it is still bigger than Maac, according to Bill Kent, vice president of marketing. But Brown Machine does not disclose sales.
Kent said Brown is adding 10,000 square feet in Beaverton to boost production of sheet-fed machines, giving it a total of 160,000 square feet. The space will have a high-bay area, and is scheduled to be ready by October.
Kent said the company is making a four-station rotary machine with a mold size of 10 feet by 22 feet. ``As far as we know, it's the largest rotary machine being built in North America,'' he said.
Meanwhile, Alongi is predicting big things for thermoforming as the year 2000 approaches, a ``virtual thermoforming explosion'' caused, in part, by the giant pallet market switching from wood to plastic.
A front page, April 1 Wall Street Journal story said more than 1 million acres of forest are cut down to make some 400 million pallets each year.
``[Pallets] still appear to be the single-biggest market, potentially, for thermoforming,'' Alongi said. He said major corporations are poised to enter the market.
CAM's Smith said the North American market for heavy-gauge, sheet-fed thermoforming machines could reach 120-140 machines a year.
Meanwhile, Maac wants to find a facility as large as 100,000 square feet in size. ``We're actively looking now,'' Alongi noted.
The company, which employs 63, is hiring more workers.
Historically speaking, Alongi said Maac buying Comet and CAM brings what Alongi terms the ``Chicago-style'' heavy-gauge machinery full circle. Comet, founded in 1955 in Chicago by Robert and Judy Kostur, grew to become a major force in thermoforming machinery. Union problems forced the company to close the Chicago plant and move the business to Florida, Alongi said.
The change at Comet created a vacuum, leading to the formation of two Chicago firms, CAM in 1977, and Maac in 1982. (A buyer moved CAM to Gladwin in 1987; Smith bought it the next year.)
All three firms — Maac, Comet and CAM—started out making basically the same equipment, but they customized the machines during the years, Alongi said.
Now Maac is positioning itself as ``pulling together under a single operating umbrella'' the Chicago-style technology.
No, Chicago-style formers aren't used to form a really thick crust, with double cheese. Instead, Alongi coined the term to describe machines that use platens driven by an electric motor. Other firms use air-driven platens.