Stung by Newell Rubbermaid Inc.'s decision to take molding work in-house, Greenbriar Industrial Systems Inc. plans to sell off its injection molding operation and start over again.
The company, going by the name Greenbriar Plastics, filed Aug. 18 for Chapter 11 protection from creditors and has been working on a plan to sell company assets, said Chief Executive Officer James Byrd of the Fairview, Pa., company.
Several buyers have expressed interest in Greenbriar's equipment and its 60,000-square-foot building, Byrd said. The sale should be completed during the next four to six months, he added.
``We want to sell the business as a going operation,'' Byrd said Oct. 21. ``Then, I plan to pull back into another, smaller facility after the reorganization is complete.''
Founded by Byrd in 1978, Greenbriar spent its formative years as a mold builder and product development company. But its injection molding work soon grew, precipitating the move in 1990 to a larger building west of Erie, Pa. During the 1990s, the company built its business as a molder and assembler of toy components, before much of that business moved offshore.
In recent years, Greenbriar had performed custom molding of housewares, including food-storage containers and kitchen accessories, with Rubbermaid as its largest customer. Greenbriar also molded parts for building products and electronics, Byrd said.
Rubbermaid contracts led to a 1997 expansion, including a 50,000-square-foot addition for assembly and distribution. The company invested in larger presses with clamping forces up to 720 tons, believing it would stave off business moving to China and Malaysia. But it soon found that it needed even larger presses, of 1,000-2,000 tons, to really stem the Asian tide, Byrd said.
``Large parts insulate you against shipping [costs] from China,'' he said. ``But it just didn't work. We didn't have the size to make an investment in larger machines of more than 1,000 tons.''
At the company's peak in 2000, Greenbriar employed 130 and recorded sales of close to $8 million, Byrd said. Last year, about 70 percent of Greenbriar's $6.8 million in sales came from Alpharetta, Ga.-based Newell Rubbermaid.
But the company was crushed in the first quarter of this year when Rubbermaid decided to take its food-storage molding work in-house to a plant in Mogadore, Ohio, Byrd said. Rubbermaid's Take Along container is designed to compete against thermoformed containers. Rubbermaid received a 10-year tax abatement from the city of Mogadore last year to add about $50 million worth of new injection molding equipment. A Rubbermaid spokeswoman could not be reached for comment on the expansion.
Greenbriar also was affected because Rubbermaid decided to move to higher-cavitation and thin-wall-products tooling, away from the types of tools Greenbriar had provided.
Byrd said Greenbriar attempted to replace the lost Rubbermaid business but ran out of cash. A filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Erie showed debts exceeding $100,000 - not a huge amount, but enough to bury a small company, he said.
Greenbriar currently has 15 employees and sales of close to $1 million, Byrd said. The company has 15 presses, all with clamping forces of 300-720 tons. The plant has the capacity to record sales as high as $20 million annually, Byrd said.
Meanwhile, Byrd's next move may be to lease another building in the Erie area and start over as a custom molder involved in product development, he said.
``We're dealing with the ups and downs of world commerce,'' he said. ``It's a natural process of change, and you have to go with the flow.''