The Society of Plastics Engineers' Thermoforming Division has named Lyle Shuert Thermoformer of the Year.
``It was a real surprise for me,'' Shuert said in a telephone interview. ``I had no idea I was nominated or even considered.''
His firm, Shuert Industries Inc., has 350 employees at its Sterling Heights, Mich., headquarters and sales of about $50 million. The company operates 16 heavy-gauge rotary thermoformers, including 14 twin-sheet machines. It also has six sheet extrusion lines.
Prior to starting his own business, Shuert worked in the design and tooling department at a custom thermoformer. High density polyethylene, then a new material, was finding new applications in the automotive industry, replacing corrugated metal, he said. Shuert developed the concept of sequentially feeding sheet to the forming station.
In 1971, he formed Shuert Industries. Originally the company served heavy-gauge thermoformers with design and tooling needs. In the late 1970s, research and development with twin-sheet technology showed potential for thermoformed materials-handling products.
``No one was using the process in a serious way,'' Shuert added. ``There were not many people in the twin-sheet [business] and that was our primary business objective. We had found our niche.''
The possibilities in twin-sheet forming led Shuert to purchase the company's biggest tooling customer, Oakland Plastics, in 1981. He then placed twin-sheet machines in that operation.
Shuert Industries manufactures custom and stock lines of materials-handling devices for the textile, auto and grocery industries in the United States, Europe and Asia. In addition, the firm serves the Postal Service with thermoformed pallets. A newer part of Shuert's business that is growing rapidly is automotive.
The company is in the early stages of planning a second U.S. manufacturing plant, since it has no room to grow at its 240,000-square-foot facility, he said.
The SPE Thermoforming Division will present Shuert with his award at its next conference and exhibition, to be held Sept. 19-22 in Nashville, Tenn.