Corona, Calif.-based Lighthouse Packaging LLC finally got a spin trimmer for its bottle production plant after Lectro Engineering Co. Inc. swooped in to fill the order that had fallen through the cracks of another equipment builder.
Founded in 1960, St. Louis-based Lectro serves plastic processors and decorators with equipment for downstream blow molding line automation and surface treating.
When Lectro officials learned Lighthouse Packaging President Ernie Hernandez's initial order with W. Amsler Equipment Inc. wasn't filled after he paid $13,850 last year, they stepped up their build schedule to help.
Lectro owner and CEO John Bliven acquired the company in May 2020 and has invested in additional space, a machining center and new employees.
"We are open, delivering and growing big time," Bliven said in a phone interview, a few days after a spin trimming system was delivered to Lighthouse Packaging.
Lectro Sales Vice President Greg Wood said the company has done business with the Hernandez family for 30 years. Ernie Hernandez's father, Manny Hernandez Sr., is president of Classic Containers Inc. in Ontario, Calif.
"Because of these long-term relationships, the 720 spin trimming system was worked into a special slot in our schedule," Wood said in an email. "The original lead time was cut in half through improved manufacturing efficiencies and use of overtime to assist in shipping the unit as quick as possible."
Ernie Hernandez originally had selected a $13,850 trimmer that could handle 6,000 bottles an hour and make quick adjustments for changes in height from W. Amsler Equipment Inc. in July 2021.
Hernandez paid half down to "Amsler, a Benpac company" when he placed the order and the other half on Oct. 4, 2021, when he received notice the machine was ready to ship.
The check was cashed Nov. 19, 2021, but the spin trimmer to finish bottles made from common materials like polyethylene, PET, polypropylene and PVC never arrived.
Lighthouse's machine order had coincided with both the closure of Amsler as part of a restructuring plan in North America and the liquidation of Benpac Holding AG in Europe.
The order "slipped through the cracks," Benpac Group CEO Marco Corvi said in a Feb. 17 email to Plastics News. He pointed to inaccessible records due to Amsler's eviction from its rental location as well as an employee's medical leave as factors.
Hernandez said he ended up borrowing a spin trimmer to meet his demand. He asked Corvi for a refund and was told Feb. 18 that his order would be canceled and he would get a refund as requested as well as "an expense contribution" of $2,000 on March 7.
Again, Hernandez is waiting.
"At this point, I don't feel very optimistic that Mr. Corvi is going to fulfill his promise to refund our money," he said. "It makes absolutely no sense given the apparent size that Benpac claims to be. It should literally be no more than a drop in the bucket for them."
Corvi could not be reached for comment. Emails stopped delivering and the company website says it is being updated through the end of April.
The spin trimmer purchase meant a lot to Lighthouse Packaging. Hernandez was making the investment for a specific custom bottle project.
"In my career of 30 years, we've never seen anything like it. They currently have a patent pending on the bottle design," Hernandez said, adding he can't disclose more yet. "Aside from that project, having this capability in place allows us to more easily pursue projects that might have otherwise been slightly out of reach."
The spin trimmer from Lectro is rated at 60 bottles per minute, or 3,600 per hour. Noah Bliven, the owner's son and a machine assembler and inventory control expert, pulled all the parts for the Lighthouse Packaging job and then assembled the unit to the prints supplied from the engineering department.
Once fully assembled, the unit was inspected by Zack Affolter, Lectro's head of engineering, and put through a simulated runoff prior to crating and shipping to the customer.
Lectro didn't charge for the additional overtime to finish the trimmer as soon as possible.
"We're a 60-plus-year-old business upholding a legacy of meeting customer commitments with high-quality products," John Bliven said.