Premium Molding Inc. has doubled in size through a North Carolina acquisition, moved to a new plant and developed a blow molded bottle rack for the water industry.
Latrobe, Pa.-based Premium completed the purchase of Diakon Molding Inc. July 17 after four months of discussions with a group headed by now-retired Diakon President Steve B. Andrews. Terms were not disclosed.
Including the Reidsville, N.C., acquisition, Premium employs about 200. The company anticipates 2003 sales of $23.5 million and has 32 blow molding machines.
Diakon Molding operates now as a Premium business unit under the direction of G.G. Trasy, general manager and vice president. He also continues as Premium's vice president of strategic planning, sales and marketing.
Diakon's 15-acre site includes a plant of 170,000 square feet and an adjoining 80,000-square-foot warehouse. Equipment includes several Hartig machines with big-product shot capacities of 100, 70 and 50 pounds. ``We have some of the largest accumulator head blow molding machines in the country,'' said Ron Mehta, Premium president and chief executive officer, by telephone.
In an upcoming development, Diakon is creating a next-generation waste collection container for a launch possibly in March. Trash carts in multiple sizes account for more than 70 percent of Diakon's business.
For two years, Diakon has blow molded air ducts for a Tier 1 automotive parts supplier. Air-duct production for another automotive customer began in Latrobe in September.
The Reidsville operation has roots back to 1961 and Zarn Inc., a pioneer in the development of blow molded high density polyethylene milk bottles and trash collection containers.
Cie. Plastic Omnium SA of Levallois, France, purchased Zarn in 1991 and sold the unit in 2000 to Andrews' group, which operated the business under the Diakon identity.
Trasy said the Reidsville crew has extensive experience. ``We have a workforce with an average tenure of 25 years,'' he said.
Meanwhile, Premium has new quarters.
Premium and a sister company, mold builder Accu-Mold Inc., moved 12 miles to Latrobe from Derry, Pa., through a phased relocation from February-April.
Over several months, crews from maintenance and shipping worked days in Derry and spent evenings in Latrobe tailoring the new site to the companies' specifications. ``That has given us a phenomenal advantage,'' Trasy said.
The custom-engineered plant occupies 80,000 square feet. Premium committed to a facility investment of more than $5 million and spent another $2 million on five new and used blow molding machines.
A Pennsylvania development authority loaned $1.25 million, and a state financing authority provided $1.9 million through a tax-exempt bond program.
During the 12 months ended June 30, Premium invested about $500,000 in new developments for the water bottle rack and a water bottle of engineered plastics.
Houston Wire Works Inc. of Houston introduced the Premium Aqua Rack at the International Bottled Water Association trade show Oct. 29-Nov. 1 in Chicago. Water distributors use bottle racks in production warehouses, trucks and customer locations.
Houston Wire, a major supplier of steel racks, was looking for an alternative product last year and approached Premium, said Ken Legler, Houston Wire president. Premium designed the modular contoured Aqua Rack as a viable replacement for rust-vulnerable metal and heavier plastic racks.
After Premium made prototypes, users in Texas and England conducted tests and recommended enlarging the back bumper for in-transit security. Premium makes Aqua Rack components in Latrobe. A customer with a rubber mallet can assemble a unit with interlocking HDPE cleats and attach the rack to a standard 48-inch-square base of stainless steel. Each module holds four containers of 5 or 3 gallons of water.
Houston Wire will market both its line of steel racks and Premium's plastic product. ``We have a huge base of customers,'' Legler said, noting a distributor utilizing lighter-weight Aqua Racks ``can use less fuel in a truck'' and increase efficiency.
Existing plastic racks include two injection molded HDPE lines, modular ProStack systems from Polymer Solutions International Inc. of Medford, N.J., and OP-Crate racks from OP BV of Helmond, the Netherlands. Also available are sturdy durable steel-reinforced rotational molded PE Aqua Caddy products from royalty-licensee Jeco Plastic Products LLC of Plainfield, Ind.
In the other product development, Premium launched a proprietary line of 5-gallon polycarbonate water containers in August. The firm converted a B30 reciprocating-screw extrusion blow molding machine from Graham Machinery Group to make crown- and screw-neck versions of the Sparkle-brand PC bottles with or without handles.
Health-care industry veteran John Gray joined Premium as sales manager in June with an eye on expanding the firm's medical device business.
All the changes at Premium are gaining attention.
``Managers at Premium understand the blow molding business from the top to the bottom, and that combination of engineering and process knowledge separates them from a lot of folks in the business,'' said Robert Slawska, president of machinery designer Proven Technology Inc. of Hillsborough, N.J., and a Premium consultant.