Feature

Focus on the Family Business: A Win-win

The owners of this longtime family blown-film company took their time looking for the right buyer. The new ownership has infused it with fresh investments and growth opportunities, while maintaining the core business focus and company culture.


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June 1, 2001 by Michael Legault

Russ Raymer, president at Plassein International, Newmarket Div., says the company's many long-term employees can see positive changes since the company was purchased.
Russ Raymer, president at Plassein International, Newmarket Div., says the company's many long-term employees can see positive changes since the company was purchased.

When the longtime family-run film extrusion and converting company, Nor Baker Inc., was acquired by Plassein Packaging Corporation in January 2000, the earth did not tremble beneath the 126,000 sq. ft. facility in Newmarket, ON. Experienced, familiar management, including president Russ Raymer, were retained by the new owner. The mission of the experienced staff remained the same: developing, selling, producing and shipping high-quality, flexible packaging films and products to a variety of customers in the food, consumer-goods and other industries. Office doors were still open and staff called one another by their first names.

It was not luck.

“It was important to Brian and Don Baker that the new owners would not disturb the company culture or change the direction of the business,” says Raymer. “Plassein’s acquisition has been ideal in the sense of letting us retain our company philosophy, and at the same time bringing new financial resources and business opportunities.”

The family company was founded in 1938 by Toronto businessman Norcliff Baker. Baker purchased Deerfield Plastics, which operated one extrusion line. Three expansions at the plant’s current site and many years later, the company had secured a reputation as an extruder and converter of film with a solid customer base. It had especially become renown for superior, value-added, flexographic printing. These capabilities attracted the attention of Plassein, which was looking to create a platform of profitable flexible packaging companies with complementary capabilities.

In addition to Nor Baker, Plassein acquired five other specialty film companies in the U.S. and Canada, giving it a total of eight manufacturing facilities with combined sales last year of US$180 million. The former Nor Baker plant is now officially known as Plassein International, Newmarket Division.

Investments in the facility by the new owners are already reaping benefits, according to Raymer. Major upgrades have been made in every area. New treaters were installed on seven of the 12 extrusion lines. The treaters employ electrostatic electricity to roughen the film’s surface, which in turn facilitates faster printing speeds on the company’s six-color and eight-color flexographic printing presses. The net result has been a significant increase in productivity, measured as lb./in. of die, since the sale.

Raymer says the sale is also bestowing certain managerial benefits, such as better engineering and marketing resources, improved purchasing power and enhanced business opportunities as a result of interactions and synergies with Plassein’s other business units. Raymer cites growth in the company’s heavy-duty shipping bag business as one example of the type of new opportunities created by being part of the Plassein group of companies. Another Plassein company in Thomasville, NC, formerly Rex International, had developed substantial business making heavy-duty shipping bags with a bottom seal, and now with Plassein International Newmarket is able to capitalize on customer interest for bags with higher-end graphics, which require side-sealing equipment.

Taking the philosophy of continuous improvement to heart, the facility is presently installing a 310-ton Trane chiller unit. The large-capacity chiller will permit internal bubble cooling (IBC) on all current lines while accommodating future expansion. The company is also consolidating the equipment and employees of Vizo Bag, a Toronto converting operation it acquired as Nor Baker in 1989.

High morale and optimism at the plant are tangible.

“About half of our employees have 20 years or more experience,” says Raymer. “They can see all the positive changes taking place.”