What will be the future ownership of Bekum Maschinenfabriken GmbH with founder Gottfried Mehnert approaching age 70? That's a topic of conversation in blow molding equipment circles, especially in Europe, but Mehnert makes it clear: The Berlin company he started in 1958 will remain family-owned.
``The point is, our industry is not an industry for big companies,'' Mehnert said in a Sept. 10 interview at Bekum America Corp. in Williamston. ``It's more or less an owner company, an owner business, to build blow molding machines, because blow molding is not a field where you can create a very big company, with big volume. Our industry is different to injection molding, as an example, because our numbers are not so big.''
Mehnert and his wife, Heidemarie, said the company, which employs 600 worldwide, will remain owned by the Mehnert family. ``The family will stay in that field in the future,'' he said.
Mehnert, 69, is chairman and president. He runs the company, along with Bernd Saurbier, the managing director. Heidemarie Mehnert said she also spends a lot of time there, although she has no official title.
Two sons are waiting in the wings. Andreas Mehnert, 42, is sales manager. Michael Mehnert, 22, is studying engineering at the Institut fur Kunststoffverarbeitung, a world-renowned plastics school in Aachen, Germany.
``My sons, they will have to manage the future,'' Gottfried Mehnert said.
Mehnert, an engineer, described Bekum as a company that builds ``high-tech special machines for packaging.'' That does not match up well with the economics of large corporations, he said.
``Our field is very special,'' he said. ``Special machines that customers need for special products. Not series machines, but machines that are different from one to two to three.''