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BMG steps up after Sencorp stops manufacturing thermoformers


When SencorpWhite Inc. stopped building new thermoforming machines last year, BMG picked up the ball and ran with it.

"Sencorp had a customer that had machines on order, and when they announced their closure, that customer actually contacted us," BMG Chief Commercial Officer Jake Kowalewski told Sustainable Plastics in an interview at NPE. Sustainable Plastics is a sister publication of Plastics News.

"They asked if there was anything we can do to help because they were not going to be able to get equipment from Sencorp any longer. We went on site to go visit them. They had bought automation equipment from us in the past but not thermoforming equipment, so we knew parts of their process but not the whole process.

"We went in and did what we've always done — a full assessment of what it is that they need: What materials are they running, what volumes are they running?," Kowalewski explained.

"What it came down to was that a big part of what they wanted to do was reuse the tools that they had purchased from Sencorp in the past. The tool package ... did not fit in many people's equipment. So we developed a system that would fit that tool package and deliver the volume at the right speeds to meet their process. They then ordered a large number of those machines."

At this point, BMG has completed 20 percent of the needs of Sencorp's previous client commitments and anticipates being able to finalize all Sencorp requests for machinery by the end of 2024. That's a commitment to fulfill the original requirements for 20 machines in less than 12 months.

The original technology request was for Sencorp's Ultra machine line. BMG studied the technology and reached critical improvement levels in forming and trimming tonnage, oven heat capacity, platen layouts, stroke lengths, shut heights, and servo-driven allowances.

These enhancements will enable the customer to significantly improve their ROI, even in light of the delivery delay caused by Sencorp's situation.

BMG fills in the gaps

BMG plans to continue manufacturing custom parts for clients that have been left behind after Sencorp's decision. Acquisition of the business, however, is out of the question.

Hyannis, Mass.-based SencorpWhite announce July 31, 2023, that it had ceased making new thermoforming machines, citing difficult business conditions.

"We're working with some of their other clients as well, providing them service, providing them parts. We decided we would make custom Sencorp parts for some of these customers that were in need because they can no longer get them from Sencorp. We were able to reverse engineer and design those parts and offer them to make sure that clients can continue to run the equipment that they had in their facility," Kowalewski said.

BMG is ready to support the industry and fill in the gaps on a case-by-case basis assessment, he said.

"We'll look at each case and move forward with it. But yes overall, we know that we have the capabilities, we have a team that can support not just our equipment but a lot of our competitors' equipment in the field and so, if needed, we're happy to help and assist, offer guidance, and move them forward so that they don't have to shutter down their old equipment.

"The last thing you want is for a company to have to strand their equipment because they can't run it. As much as we'd love to sell them new equipment, we also know they need to be healthy and they need a sustainable business," Kowalewski said.

Sales up

The strategy seems to be working. In 2023, BMG had a good year, with better performance than the previous years, Kowalewski revealed. Although overall demand was down in the industry, BMG was able to win "a lot" of the few projects out there.

BMG, based in Beaverton, Mich., was known as Brown Machine Group until 2021. After a series of acquisitions, its brands include Brown, Lyle, GN, Freeman and NAS.

What sets BMG apart, according to Kowalewski, is its ability to offer a one-stop shop which can predict customers' needs before they can even clearly express them.

"We offer not just the machines, we offer world-class tooling that goes with that, and then we offer on the back end a full automation suite of products. When you talk about the term 'turn-key solutions' and maximizing your ROI and reducing footprint — which is so important in the manufacturing space today — we can tie that all together and make it seamless."

Another key part of BMG's success, Kowalewski said, is putting the customer first by understanding and adapting to their needs.

"A big part of what we're focused on is providing the service to our customers to make sure they're successful. It's not just about selling spare parts; it's about making sure that our customers find success with the equipment — whether it's ours or not. If they are successful and we are the ones that helped them get there, we know that they'll come back."

The predictive nature of this work cannot be understated, Kowalewski said. BMG owes a lot of its success to being able to understand what its customers want even when they don't know how to fully communicate those needs.

"Innovation has been a big part of what's helped us move forward. Not just saying this is our equipment but saying 'Yes, we can do that,' and then building it and designing it with our engineering force. We provide our customers with the technology of the future."

Technology of the future: plastic and paper

A piece of that technology is the modular BMG NXT platform being launched at NPE, the first units of which will be available at the end of this year.

The thermoformer can run either plastic or fiber, offering a modular design allowing customers to go from a plastic to a paper thermoforming machine "at the drop of a hat."

"The NXT modular platform really plays off our sustainability goals — to develop a system for the future of thermoforming. The way we look at thermoforming is not just a plastic process, it's also a paper product," Kowalewski said.

Most of BMG's customers doing plastic thermoforming also produce several paper products. Many others now want to have the option to also work with fiber due to sustainability concerns, Kowalewski explained, even if the sustainability credentials of paper don't always match those of plastic.

The NXT also offers ease of access and the ability to quickly add additional stations using plug-and-play modules. Another innovation is on the oven design which can be accessed from either the right- or left- hand side. That double access point allows one operator to work on two machines at the same time, reducing tool change time and increasing output.



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