New owners — led by the great-granddaughter of Package Machinery Co.'s founder — are rejuvenating the firm's venerable Reed Division.
The firm recently announced a program to rebuild old Reeds and retrofit them with updated controllers.
Package Machinery let service lapse in recent years, according to President Katherine E. Putnam.
``Between the time they stopped making machines in 1990, and 1996, when I came in, we had never picked up the phone and called a customer. We took orders, we responded to orders, but we did not engage the customer in any conversation,'' she said.
That changed after Putnam and two other family members, along with four outside investors, bought Package Machinery and Reed in mid-1996.
Now Reed is making the calls. Reed even has reactivated the old phone numbers stamped on the nameplates of its machines, Putnam said in a telephone interview from company headquarters in West Springfield, Mass.
The company hired Ted Newsome, who returned to Package Machinery as vice president, working on a part-time basis. Mikal Johansen, whose background includes used plastics machines, joined Reed in December as sales manager. The firm also added a customer service supervisor.
Package Machinery stopped making new Reed injection molding machines in 1990, ending one of the pioneering U.S.-made press lines. The company kept making equipment for the packaging sector. Beginning in 1994, it began to sell off its packaging machine manufacturing operations.
The company eventually ceased all new-machine production, but continued to sell spare parts and provide service for both Reed injection presses and Package Machinery equipment, Putnam said. The firm retained all the original engineering drawings.
Remanufacturing and controls retrofit services are new for Reed — and the latest chapter in a plastics machine brand that dates back to 1936. That year, Reed-Prentice Corp. introduced its first injection molding machine, according to Plastics History — U.S.A., a book by J. Harry DuBois.
Reed's 10-D-8 press, introduced two years later, became the world's most-popular injection molding machine.
Package Machinery, a company founded in 1913, bought Reed in 1951.
Package Machinery made roughly 11,000 Reeds from 1951 through 1990, both horizontal and vertical-clamp machines, Newsome said. The vertical insert molding machines are called Duplimatic.
``One of our goals is to try and find where all the machines are,'' Newsome said.
According to Plastics History — U.S.A., Reed made more than 2,000 of 10-D-8 machines in the 1930s and 1940s.
Many used Reeds have gone to Latin America. That is why Putnam decided to announce Reed's new programs at the April Plasticos de las Americas show in Miami.
A new retrofit controller called Cyclemaster 500, developed in conjunction with Allen-Bradley Co. Inc. The controller is based on Allen-Bradley's SLC 500 family. Reed had been working with Solid Controls Inc. last year, but Putnam said that relationship has ended.
A continued commitment to spare parts. Putnam said the firm has improved its parts business, so now about 80 percent of orders get shipped within 24 hours.
The firm now is helping customers buy and sell used Reeds, through listings on its Web site, www.packagemachinery.com.
A new remanufacturing program. Putnam said Reed plans to show a rebuilt vertical press at this fall's Plastics USA show in Chicago.
According to Putnam and Newsome, Reed's Massachusetts facility is rebuilding small-tonnage machines.
The company has contracted with Fenn Manufacturing in Newington, Conn., to rebuild large machines. Fenn makes wire drawing machines and metal rolling mills, and fabricates aerospace parts.
``We looked for a company that was not necessarily building injection molding machines, but making similar equipment,'' Newsome said.
Industry speculation is that Reed will begin making new machines again. Putnam confirmed Reed officials are ``looking at our options,'' but she said there are no concrete plans to offer new Reeds.
Still, she said, the changes have given the business new energy.
``Reed was, up until about a year ago, only a parts and service business,'' she said. ``We're letting our customers guide us. What I'm trying to create here is a customer-focused organization. Everything we've done up to this point has been because of that customer focus.''