With HPM Corp. floundering in Mount Gilead, Ohio, on skeleton-crew status, two companies are lining up to provide sales and service for the thousands of HPM machines running at plastics and die-casting plants nationwide.
On July 23, Epco Machinery LLC will mail out postcards to 5,000 plastics and die-casting processors. The simple message: The remanufacturing specialist in Fremont, Ohio, can provide parts and service for HPM machines.
Its competitor is a partnership of two firms - machine controls specialists Northwest Technical Integrators Inc. and Integration Technologies Ltd. - working with David Troutman, who used to run HPM's Remanufacturing Division. Troutman said the partnership will offer parts, service and remanufacturing capability for HPM machines.
Both Epco and the partnership say they want to hire some of the people laid off from HPM, a supplier of injection molding machines, extrusion lines and die-casting machines. In financial trouble, HPM had told employees it would close production the week of July 2 but hoped to reopen the following week. However, the doors stayed shut on July 9, except for a small crew of 16 people. Fleet Capital Corp., HPM's largest creditor, has set up offices in Mount Gilead.
William Flickinger, HPM's president and chief operating officer, is trying to find a buyer for the company. He could not be reached for comment.
Officials at Epco and the two controls integrator companies say they have received many calls from HPM customers who are worried about getting parts and service for their equipment. Epco President Steve Schroeder said that the calls really began to flood in after HPM did not reopen.
``What's happened over the last two weeks is, all of a sudden, an increase in calls has been tremendous from people with HPM machines,'' Schroeder said.
HPM has not offered to sell the spare parts business, according to Epco and the NTI/ITL alliance.
``We're not claiming to be an authorized parts and service provider [for HPM],'' Schroeder said. ``But over the last 20 years we've been providing service and spare parts for all makes of machines, and HPM has been one of them.''
Schroeder said HPM users are telling him HPM is not able to provide parts or service. HPM, founded in Mount Gilead in 1877 to make apple presses, was one of the pioneering U.S. companies to manufacture injection molding machines. Some plastics machinery officials estimate that HPM generates $10 million or more annually selling spare parts.
The partnership seeking HPM parts and service business brings together experts on controllers with Troutman, who retired from HPM in mid-2000. Troutman left after HPM moved its Remanufacturing Division from Marion, Ohio, to the HPM main assembly plant in Mount Gilead.
Troutman said his phone started ringing earlier this year, as ``their tailspin started'' at HPM.
``I've had numerous calls from old friends and customers who were quite concerned about the availability of support,'' he said.
Troutman described the two partner companies:
Northwest Technical Integrators is a systems integrator of Allen Bradley controllers onto plastics machines. Owner Don King is relocating NTI from Chicago to Ohio, probably the Mansfield area, Troutman said. King developed an Allen Bradley-based control system dubbed the 2100 several years ago, Troutman said.
Integration Technologies Ltd. recently opened a machinery remanufacturing operation in Marion. Troutman said he soon will become an owner of the company. Randy Clements is president and the other owner. ITL has been in business about five years, focusing on Barber-Colman control systems.
Troutman lives in Marion. He said ITL employs nine people at the remanufacturing plant, which has 50- and 30-ton cranes. The company expects to hire more people, including some from HPM.
``There is certainly a great cadre of skilled, technical and experienced people in this regard who are panting to come on board,'' he said.
Northwest Technical Integrators and Integration Technologies will work as affiliated companies. The firms are considering signing on laid-off HPM service people as independent agents.