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You could say 2010 was a pretty pivotal year for Gloucester Engineering Co. (GEC).The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy that year, only to emerge from it after an investment by New York private equity firm Blue Wolf Capital Partners, which is currently a majority stakeholder in the company. Now in its 52nd year, GEC recently expanded its blown film machinery die rebuilding offerings due to an increased demand for the service.

Heather Caliendo

June 11, 2013

3 Min Read
After rebuilding company, Gloucester Engineering expands die rebuilding operations

You could say 2010 was a pretty pivotal year for Gloucester Engineering Co. (GEC).

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy that year, only to emerge from it after an investment by New York private equity firm Blue Wolf Capital Partners, which is currently a majority stakeholder in the company. 

Now in its 52nd year, GEC recently expanded its blown film machinery die rebuilding offerings due to an increased demand for the service.

"We suspect many companies held off coming to us during our turnaround, now are coming back to us in a big way," Laurent Cros, GEC VP aftermarket and service, told PlasticsToday. "With the stability brought by our owners, Blue Wolf Capital, and the potential of GEC, combined with the acquisition of two of the industry's leading components manufacturers, processors needing machinery and upgrades are confident in our capabilities and our future. Our track record both in quality and turnaround times in the recent past also play a role in the amount of new requests we are receiving."

GECRebuilds-1727.jpgPart of this expansion includes allocating additional resources to the firm's Gloucester, MA headquarters and production facilities including setting up to rebuild large dies for applications like geomembranes. The company is also increasing its in-house and out-of-house formal training, as most of its technicians have been formally trained at UMass Lowell in its plastics engineering programs. GEC is looking into increasing its staff of technicians to work on die rebuilds.

The company is experiencing a virtual near capacity situation in its die rebuilding program. Cros said the driving factor for rebuild growthat Gloucester Engineering and all its competitors, is price. Rebuilding costs, depending on the components, can be a low as 75% less than the price of a new die.

"When times are a bit more tough and budgets a bit more frugal, customers are turning in greater numbers to have dies, other components and, in some cases, systems rebuilt at a fraction of the cost of buying new," Cros said. "It should be noted that rebuilding by GEC is not limited our own products, but those of our competitors. Not all rebuilders have the resources to do this."

Cros also said that the company has heard some of its competitors may be getting out of this business to concentrate on other products and services.

The rebuilding process

When a die is brought into the company's rebuild operation, Cros said it is completely disassembled and thoroughly cleaned (oven cleaned if needed). This is followed by a comprehensive inspection of all components by the company's specialized engineering team. Then there's hand polishing of die components to eliminate minor surface imperfections that can impact the performance of a die. In the case of severe damage, GEC offers specialized restoration service to build up surfaces that have significant damage, and machining to original specifications.

The machining for pin inserts to accommodate frequent die gap changes allows removal of just the insert to change die gaps versus having to remove the complete mandrel. Machining of both the sizing ring and pin for inserts facilitates fast, complete die lip cleanings and replacement/repair of damaged die lips, Cros said.

A full inspection report of each component includes a detailed recommendation on what work GEC could do to improve performance.

"For rebuilds on our own dies, it wouldn't make sense for an owner of a Gloucester Engineering die not to come back to us, because we have all the original drawings and specifications," Cros said. "In many cases, our engineers and technicians that have designed or fabricated their dies are still working with us or have trained new team members. On competitive die rebuilds, we provide the same high quality results to meet or exceed original manufacturers' specifications."

Cros said GEC rebuilds not just blown film systems and components, but also cast, sheet and foam extrusion machinery and key components.

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