GEMCO combines manufacturing, testing — elements its fourth-generation CEO learned from the ground up
A fourth-generation, family-owned business that employs union labor to make large industrial equipment in New Jersey is a rare find indeed.
Just ask Casey Muench, the president and owner of GEMCO in Middlesex.
“Harvard Business School says we shouldn't even exist,” she said.
For nearly 100 years, GEMCO has been successfully building various shapes and sizes of tumble blenders — or precision industrial mixing machines — for 28 different industries. The machines blend everything from the plastic pellets used to make car dashboards and takeout containers to color cosmetics and medicinal powders, which need to be perfectly uniform.
“If you have only 0.1 percent of an active ingredient, and you need 99.9 percent filler, you don't want your neighbor down the street getting the drug full of the active ingredient, and you getting more filler,” Muench said.
Armed with a full engineering staff, internally developed technology and the ability to provide high levels of sophisticated services such as Food and Drug Administration and installation validations, GEMCO is widely renowned for its quality production.
“Any fabricator can weld and bend metal. Anyone can polish it and make it look nice,” Muench said. “But when it falls down and doesn't work, they call GEMCO.”
In addition, GEMCO said it's the only company in its field that has a 10,000-square-foot test facility — a separate but related business called Package Kare.
Muench's father, John, Jr., moved the company from Newark to Middlesex in the early 80s with big plans to expand.
By 1986, he had created Package Kare next to GEMCO as a rentable processing facility for prototype and product-testing.
“If companies don't have the room in the warehouse or trained operators, or the finances to purchase a blender, they can come and use our machines in Package Kare for their needs,” Muench said. “Or, as GEMCO customers wait for their machines — which take four to six months to build — they can be processing product, training operators and learning how to set up their facility.”
After attending Bucknell University for business management and economics, Muench originally started working for Prudential Financial. But that ended abruptly in 2005, when her father's partner in Package Kare suddenly died.
“My father had been retired for some time and asked me if I wanted to take over,” Muench said. “I dropped everything. I had to leave my first job nine months out of college because we were in crisis mode here.”
Muench did not, however, jump right into her position as president of Package Kare. She started off sweeping and mopping floors, taking apart and cleaning units and educating herself on the machinery.
“I wanted to know all the pieces, all the industrial engineering behind them, what met FDA requirements, all of it,” Muench said.
“When I moved over to GEMCO from Package Kare to start running the company, I saw the beautiful integration of how GEMCO uses Package Kare customers to learn how to make changes to the product.”
And for a company that's been making the same blender for almost a century, GEMCO certainly isn't afraid of change.
With Package Kare having grown about 10 percent in the last year, the business has invested hundreds of thousands into new, fully automated technology that allows employees to check parameters on their mobile devices.
Additionally, GEMCO is hiring new electrical, programming and engineering employees as its market share increases.
“Our goal is to attract higher-level technical people to help drive our company toward the latest and greatest innovations,” Muench said.
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THE BIZ IN BRIEF
Name: The General Machine Company of New Jersey (GEMCO) and Package Kare
Owner: Casey Muench
Employees: 25 at GEMCO; 5 at Package Kare
One more thing: The company was started in 1916 by Muench’s great-grandfather John and her four great-uncles as a general machine company building elevators. It wasn’t until just before WWII that DuPont came to them and asked if they could develop a gentle way of blending gunpowder. For this reason, John Muench, Sr., invented the tumble blender.