Following its recent acquisition by Nefab Group AB, PolyFlex Products Inc. is anticipating growth and a smooth transition.
Mark Kirchmer, PolyFlex CEO, said the companies are a good match.
"At the first meeting … something kind of magical happened," Kirchmer said June 27 by phone. "We saw a cultural fit and a strategic fit that immediately resonated with us."
PolyFlex had grown to the point where Kirchmer and his two partners, David Biggie and Ken Przybylowicz, who goes by Bylo, needed outside help to advance that growth.
They began looking about a year ago with the aid of Angle Advisors LLC of Birmingham, Mich., which introduced them to Jönköping, Sweden-based Nefab.
"Nefab and PolyFlex have a similar vision: saving resources, both environmentally and financially," he said. Sustainability and reusability are important to both firms.
Nefab specializes in custom packaging and logistics solutions for global customers. Its primary packaging is in wood crating and specialized wood packaging products. It supplies the electric vehicle market with logistics services and returnable packaging for lithium-ion batteries.
The company already has about 20 locations in North America but was particularly interested in PolyFlex's injection molding operations in Michigan and its thermoforming plant in Morrison, Tenn.
Kirchmer said Nefab will help PolyFlex expand those operations as well as the latter's presence in León, Mexico, where it has a warehouse.
Farmington Hills, Mich.-based PolyFlex makes trays and customized containers used for shipping/transportation of products, including electric vehicle batteries, and for in-plant manufacturing and automated workflow.
"We've been at the forefront of some of the battery handling, dating back almost six years now," Kirchmer said. "We're very strong with all the automotive companies and many of the EV companies."
PolyFlex also does reaction injection molding, and cast and foam polyurethane manufacturing.
As many automakers and their suppliers have struggled significantly in recent years, PolyFlex has had a different experience. The company isn't as dependent as many on volume in the industry.
"We're still seeing a fairly strong economic outlook finishing this year and coming into next year. We're working now on next-generation-battery EV launches. We are tied to vehicle launches more than volume, and we're extremely busy," Kirchmer said.
"Any change is good for us. When industry goes through change, packaging is affected."
Kirchmer said he's gotten positive customer feedback about the acquisition. When there's a cultural and strategic fit between two companies, he said, "they can be integrated much more quickly; there's a higher confidence that it will be a successful partnership. Nefab checked those boxes really quickly."
"Nefab just wants us to keep doing more of the same and grow," he added. Kirchmer is staying on as CEO and Darrell Tiedeman recently was promoted from vice president of sales and engineering to chief operating officer.
As planned, Biggie and Bylo are doing more mentoring now than front-line work, though Kirchmer said he is still very active in the business.
The many common principles of the companies — "simplicity, respect, empowerment, trust and commitment" — have given the owners the confidence to step back a bit, Kirchmer added.
"It's comforting to know PolyFlex is in the hands of someone like Nefab."
PolyFlex, founded in 2003, ranked No. 110 in Plastics News' recent survey of North American thermoformers, with relevant 2022 sales of $9.9 million, five lines and 32 employees. In total, the company employs 187 and has sales of about $52 million.
In North America, Nefab has about 20 operations, including Nefab Packaging Inc. USA, based in Coppell, Texas. With the PolyFlex acquisition, Nefab will employ more than 4,500 in 35 countries. Its annual sales are about $925.7 million.