DETROIT — Call it The Plastics Trap.
Much like in The Parent Trap — the Disney flick in which an American girl finds her long-lost twin from the other side of the Atlantic — Tricon Industries Inc. of Lisle, Ill., is forming an injection molding partnership with Labone Precision of Derbyshire, England.
Just how similar are the two companies? Consider the following:
Tricon reported sales of $50 million last year; Labone posted sales of about $40 million.
Both firms operate about 60 injection presses and 10-15 metal-stamping machines.
Both get more than half their sales from the automotive market — Tricon at 90 percent; Labone at 60.
Tricon employs 500; Labone 450.
Each company uses similar resins in their molding work, including nylon, PET and polybutylene terephthalate.
Their product mixes also are similar, with each specializing in insert molding of specialized auto components such as switch and relay components and other electrical parts.
"If you put Tricon's products in a photo with ours, you wouldn't know who made what," Labone operations director Nigel Riley said in an interview at the Society of Automotive Engineers 2001 World Congress in Detroit.
Tricon sales manager Rick Zech added that the two firms "have similar sizes and skill sets, and have very similar cultures as well."
The deal essentially calls for each molder to make products for the other's customers at their plants. This is new territory for Labone, which currently has no North American sales, and a big opportunity for Tricon, which does less than 4 percent of its business in Europe.
Labone operates three plants in the United Kingdom, one in Germany and one in the Czech Republic, while Tricon runs a pair of plants in Downers Grove, Ill.
After two years of due diligence between the firms, their partnership officially launched March 1. Transfer of some tooling between their various sites is scheduled to begin in the third quarter of this year.
In spite of their many similarities, there are some automotive and nonautomotive areas where Tricon and Labone expect to benefit from the team-up.
Labone does more work in automotive flexiconnectors than Tricon and also has a sizable presence in mechanical parts for automatic teller machines through National Cash Register, its largest American customer. Tricon has had more of a hand in automotive lighting projects than Labone.
But their similarities far outweigh their differences.
"We don't have an estimate for how much this is going to help our sales," Tricon's Zech said. "But this is definitely a major opportunity for both companies."