Made in the Suburbs: Tek Pak Inc.
An interview with Tek Pak President and Founder Tony Beyer.
Q: Describe your company. What product(s) do you make and what are they used for?
A: Tek Pak, Inc. is a global manufacturing company providing light gauge thermoform, molded fiber and packaging solutions for electronic, food, health care and industrial customers from design concept through prototype and production. Headquartered in Batavia, Tek Pak remains a closely held private corporation with three facilities in the Western suburbs, Batavia and St. Charles.
Our company provides the most comprehensive, high-quality and fastest thermoforming development in the world. We are also the largest carrier tape manufacturer and distributor in North America and the North American Distributor for Singapore-based C-Pak Pte Ltd., the top manufacturer and supplier of carrier tape products in the world. Our products include custom carrier tape, open tool carrier tape, cover tape and takeup reels.
We also offer turnkey solutions for all our customers' thermoforming needs -- from product and package design, thermoform tool design and prototype tooling -- to prototype forming and product manufacturing. We also have expertise in RFI shielding and fiber molding. Our team provides research and development services for traditional and new leading-edge applications and our products are used for retail and industrial packaging in the food, health care, electronics, industrial and biotech sector.
Q: Describe the process of making your products.
A: Tek Pak provides research and development services to customers on a project basis for cutting-edge applications. We work with customers from the early conceptual stages to product launch as we engage in the commercial manufacturing of their products. For example, many projects require the use of a Kiefel machine for the development, production and processing of plastic films.
Customers come to us with a specific issue they're trying to solve, and our team turns the concept into production-ready parts in record time. To do this, we need a team trained to recalibrate machines, create new and tailored molds, and skilled enough to help move products through each stage of the process. This aligns with the specific product solutions we develop for customers with our in-house engineering team at Tek Pak.
Q: Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?
A: We have made $3.5 million in reinvestments in the company this year with the delivery of a new Keifel thermoforming machine in January and the recent purchase of two additional Kiefel machines which will increase our production capacity by 40%.
With this increased capacity, we will also need to hire and train 12-18 people and increase our workforce up to 10% before the end of the year. Because of these developments, we are certain to make additional capital investments and scale up expenditure in the hiring and training of our employees in 2023.
Q: Do you have enough space in your current facility or are you looking to expand/find a new facility?
A: We operate from facilities across four locations in the Fox Valley region including our headquarters in Batavia, and additional facilities in Chicago and St. Charles but will soon add a fifth facility. We recently leased a new building from BEI, one of the largest real estate organizations in the Fox Valley to expand our operations in St. Charles.
Our plan is to move our human resources team into the building and use the rest of the space as an additional production or distribution center. As we continue to grow our operations with additional investments in equipment and our workforce, we are sure to further expand our operations.
Q: What will your company's main challenges be in the next year?
A: The greatest challenge facing the manufacturing industry as a whole right now is workforce development and the growing skills gap. Just as the industry has evolved over the years with advancements in technology and automation, so have the needs of employers and the employees we are trying to attract to our shop room floor.
Many of the positions at Tek Pak are highly skilled jobs and require the capability to navigate instruments and machining operations specific to the plastics and thermoform industry. Keifel operators can earn on average between $55,000-95,000 a year, no four-year college degree required, but the processes and equipment we rely on for our operations often require additional tailored upskilling and training.
While there are great training and apprenticeship programs out there for CNC operators, maintenance technicians and many of the standard positions available in the industry, Tek Pak has struggled to find something that was well aligned with plastics, and more specifically, thermoforming. With the overall goal of providing a training program specific to this specialized arena, we launched our own internal apprenticeship program focused on thermoforming this year and are excited to have nine employees in the pilot program that kicked off earlier this spring.
We wanted to find a way to combine that learning with hands-on application to the machines we have on our shop room floor. Tek Pak has 15-16 types of machinery that employees can be apprenticed on, and they increase their earning potential as additional certifications are achieved. At the end of the day, investment in employee development is the best pathway to manufacturers' success.
Q: What's the hottest trend in your industry?
A: Unfortunately, the hottest trend in our industry right now is inflation, and it is impacting manufacturers across the board. Every element of the production process, from the cost of raw materials to the cost of technical equipment and replacement parts for forming thermoforming machines, which are crucial to our operations, is being impacted.
There are also increases in the cost of energy and power, as well as challenges with global supply chains. These inflationary pressures are real and biting hard, but we are working to maintain a balance to ensure we plan ahead in our operational process -- hoping this current hottest "trend" cools in the coming months.
Q: Do you have a business mantra?
A: We pride ourselves on serving as the preferred employer of the Fox Valley region and take great care to ensure we're not only making the safety and welfare of our employees a top priority but also investing in them as people. We offer our employees continuous training and have recently launched an internal apprenticeship pilot program to help them advance in their careers and maintain a competitive remuneration and benefits package affording us great employee retention. During our 30th anniversary celebration in June, we honored 21 long-standing employees, some of whom have been with us for 25 years or more.
Q: What is one interesting fact about your company that most people may not know?
A: We are a member of the International Molded Fiber Association and have made significant investments in fiber molding. The Tek Pak Molded Fiber Division was created in 2019 and has expanded exponentially as customers continue to seek sustainable packaging options. Our fiber molded products are 100% recyclable, biodegradable and sustainable -- this is becoming a growing trend in our industry as we continue to provide packaging solutions for a wide range of industries.
Q: What are the benefits to you of making your product(s) here in the Chicago suburbs?
A: Tek Pak, Inc provides packaging solutions for many electronic, food, health care and industrial customers -- and many of some of the biggest producers of these products are also based right here in the Chicago area. Being based in the Midwest, and specifically in this area of Kane County, we have great access to transportation infrastructure including ground, rail freight and air, allowing us to get products out to customers based in other parts of the country and across the globe in a timely manner.
We also have partner organizations in the area helping to advocate for our industry, including the Valley Industrial Association (VIA), the Illinois Manufacturers Association (IMA), our local St. Charles Chamber of Commerce and more -- all of whom want to see us be successful and continue making a positive impact in our local community and the overall health of Illinois' economy.
Q: If you could make any product other than what you do make, what would it be?
A: While we started our Molded Fiber Division in 2019, we would like to produce more fiber-molded prototypes, fiber tools and molded fiber products. A lot of our work is done with plastic thermoform, but opportunities are beginning to arise around fiber tooling and production which is more environmentally sustainable.
We recently worked with two customers around tooling for their fiber prototypes and as opportunities arise and the industry grows, we hope to go beyond our present support role and expand our work not only in tooling but the production of molded fiber products.
Q: If you could pick someone famous to promote your product, who would it be?
A: Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. Munger readily comes to mind not only because of his reputation as Warren Buffett's right-hand man, but because of his discipline, thought processes and success in the business field; I've long admired the way his mind works.
He is well known for his ethical approach to business and investing integrity, and unique approach to solving business problems. He is also a philanthropist who has donated millions of dollars to many causes and educational institutions. He is a distinguished role model we would be happy to have on our side to promote our products if we have the opportunity.
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1336 Paramount Parkway, Batavia, IL 60510
Annual revenue: $18.5 million (2021)
Number of employees: 100 plus and hiring