Brown Machinery Group, the Beaverton, Mich.-based manufacturer of thermoforming and downstream automation equipment, has purchased thermoform tooling maker Freeman Co. in Fremont, Ohio.
Freeman builds tooling for high-volume food service and packaging processors.
Terms of the deal, effective Jan. 5, were not disclosed.
Brown Machine provides equipment under the brand names of Brown, Lyle, Nalle Automation Systems and Epco. Company officials say Brown is the only U.S. thermoforming machinery manufacturer that offers a full range of services, including process engineering, tooling, productivity enhancement kits, spare parts, 24/7 customer service and a prototyping laboratory.
Brown Machine Group CEO Bryan Redman said the purchase of Freeman "provides a more complete tooling solution, further establishing Brown's position as a comprehensive solutions provider" to the thermoforming industry.
Brown already makes tooling.
"While we maintain a significant focus here on tooling in Beaverton, this additional capacity is needed to promote our turnkey solutions," said Bob Godert, Brown Machine Group's director of sales.
Godert said customers often want Brown to supply everything, from the thermoforming machine to tooling to automation. He said Freeman will remain in Fremont, where it employs 62 people.
Freeman has a long history that began in the shoe industry. Louis Freeman, started the company in Cincinnati in 1908. In the 1920s, the company developed equipment to accurately trim and perforate shoe uppers at the same time, spurring fast growth. The "Freeman Machine" became a standard. In the 1950s, Freeman established die shops in several centers of shoe production.
Globalization of the shoe industry accelerated in the 1970s, so Freeman began to diversify, buying Fremont Tool & Die Co., a cutting-die maker in Fremont, Ohio. In the 1990s, the company began to make thermoform tooling in Fremont — and built a multi-million-dollar factory there in 1997, moving its corporate headquarters there.
After the deal, Larry Mears will retire as Freeman CEO. Mike Mullholand, Freeman chief operating officer, will become the new CEO.
Mullholland said: "Larry and I have been looking for the right partner for some time now, and we are very happy to be joining the Brown Machine Group family."
Brown Machinery Group is owned by private equity firm Tenex Capital Management.