Less than three months after buying much of the thermoforming business of Alltrista Corp., Wilbert Inc. will shake up operations and close a plant in Tennessee.
Chicago-based Wilbert has started the difficult task of consolidating the business of its own Thermoform Plastics Inc. unit in St. Paul, Minn., and the five underperforming plants it gained in the Alltrista sale, said Curtis Zamec, Wilbert chairman, president and chief executive officer.
Several Wilbert and Alltrista thermoforming divisions will be moved, while a leased Alltrista thermoforming plant in Cookeville, Tenn., will close by the end of May, Zamec said Feb. 15 by telephone.
``We are moving business because of three issues,'' Zamec said. ``It is based on where we have new technology, capacity and the geography to get closer to customers. Integrating the plants will make them more profitable.''
On Feb. 18, Wilbert will break the news to the 75 workers in Cookeville. The 41,000-square-foot plant, a former Alltrista facility, will shut and much of the equipment moved to Wilbert thermoforming plants in Auburndale, Fla., and Belmont, N.C.
About eight to 10 forming, trimming and assembly lines in Cookeville will be shifted to other locations. Employees in Cookeville will have the option to move to North Carolina or Florida, Zamec said.
The company also will shift other operations. Wilbert, a major supplier of burial products to funeral homes, will move its proprietary burial-vault liner business from Belmont to another Thermoform Plastics facility in Little Hocking, Ohio. The move will shift some thermoforming equipment, but no employees, Zamec said. Wilbert will base much of its funeral-services business in Little Hocking.
Moving the burial-products line out of Belmont will free 25,000-30,000 square feet in manufacturing and warehouse space. That space will be used to absorb some of the work coming from the Cookeville facility.
Several operational changes also are under way. Thermoform Plastics will run much of the thermoforming operations as a Wilbert division under a new name, TPI.
The headquarters for Alltrista's former Triangle Plastics Inc. industrial thermoforming plants will move from Winthrop, Iowa, to TPI headquarters in St. Paul. Triangle sales and engineering people also will work from other TPI plants, including a Triangle manufacturing facility in Winthrop, he said.
The company will shift the location of its TransPak USA business from Belmont to Portage, Wis., where its TriEnda Corp. materials-handling division is based. TransPak, a maker of reusable, thermoformed shipping containers, will integrate administrative, engineering and sales functions with those at TriEnda, Zamec said.
TransPak tooling and some equipment will shift to TriEnda, another former Alltrista unit, he said.
Even with the management shifts, both the TransPak and Triangle brand names will remain, he said.
Work at Wilbert will be streamlined into three divisions: The St. Paul-based TPI thermoforming group; the Portage-based TriEnda group specializing in materials-handling and dunnage products; and the Synergy World unit, a maker of thermoformed portable restrooms based in St. Louis.
Thermoforming consultant William McConnell of Fort Worth, Texas-based McConnell Co. said consolidation was needed to put the former Alltrista operations back on the right footing.
``Everything went wrong with those facilities, and they were going downhill fast,'' he said. ``It's a fantastic move for the industry for [Wilbert] to come in and clean up those plants. It will take quite a lot of changes, but they'll do it.''