Chicago-area thermoforming equipment maker Maac Machinery Corp. plans to break ground this month on a new factory in Carol Stream, Ill., that doubles the size, and triples the manufacturing space, of the company's current plant.
Both locations are near O'Hare International Airport. Production should begin at the new plant by August. Maac already has sold its Itasca, Ill., plant, but the firm will operate from the site until the Carol Stream factory is up and running, said Paul Alongi, Maac's chief executive officer and owner.
The new, 51,000-square-foot plant will have some important features that are lacking in Maac's Itasca building — high ceilings and an overhead crane.
``We have more business than we have room to put it up in. This [Itasca] facility comfortably handles sales in the $10 million range,'' Alongi said.
After two recent acquisitions, Maac generates about $14 million in annual sales from its heavy-gauge, sheet-fed thermoforming machines. The firm employs 73.
``Our projections would be to add about 20 more people over the next two years,'' Alongi said.
Alongi founded Maac in 1982, operating in a leased plant in Elk Grove Village, Ill. In 1990, the company bought and completely renovated the Itasca building.
In the past two years, Maac bought the assets of two other thermoforming machinery makers: Comet Industries Inc. of Sanford, Fla., and Central Automated Machinery Inc. of Gladwin, Mich. Those acquisitions, and a general increase in business, pushed Alongi to look for more space.
Originally, he wanted to buy an existing building near O'Hare, but economics dictated building a new one. He discovered that Maac would have to find a very large building, of at least 80,000 square feet, to meet its production requirements.
Maac took the economical approach: By building a plant dedicated to making thermoforming machinery, the firm can use 51,000 square feet to turn out just as many machines as it could in a larger plant, Alongi said.
``That's how it ended up in dollars and cents,'' he said.
The new building will allow Maac to shorten delivery times by as much as four weeks. Alongi does not have the final price tag for the building.
Maac makes some big pieces of equipment — rotary sheet formers can measure 50 or 60 feet in diameter and stand 18-20 feet high. Maac workers build the machines at the plant, test them, then disassemble them for shipment by truck.
At the new plant, employees will be able to build machines as large as 80 feet in diameter.
Maac's cramped Itasca plant has 18-foot-high ceilings. The new building will measure 28 feet high. Clearance will be at least 24 feet under a 10-ton bridge crane.
Alongi said the rotary sheet-fed machine market — dominated by Maac and Brown Machine of Beaverton, Mich. — is healthy. Twin-sheet thermoforming, especially for pallets, has become a global growth market.
Maac has sold 46 machines in 1998 — about the same number as the year before. But Alongi said many of these have been highly productive models designed for specific customers.
``Our growth really hasn't been in the amount of the machines, but really in the size and the sophistication of them,'' he said.
Customers want more-efficient machines and more automation.
Maac's customers make appliance interiors, door panels for cars, truck bedliners, tubs and spas, luggage, boats, pallets and other products.