The packaging equipment company marked 40 years in business last week with an open house at its facility in Jackson Township.

JACKSON TWP.  In 1979, Pete Ballos started rebuilding packaging equipment and the effort led to Combi Packaging Systems, a company that today sells new equipment worldwide.

The company invited customers, vendors, area officials, students, friends and the family of employees to visit last week at the company's facility at 6299 Dressler Road NW. The open house marked the company's 40th anniversary.

Pete Ballos worked in Timken Co.'s tool and die operations when he opted to begin refurbishing equipment. He and wife, Janice, launched the company, and focused on rebuilding equipment until 1988. That year the company bought case erector designs from Combi Pack Sweden AB. The company grew quickly over the next decade and started expanding its product line.

Combi makes machinery that loads finished goods — bottles of liquid or jars of food — into corrugated boxes.

A case erector is a machine that takes folded, flat corrugated boxes, opens them, seals the bottom and lifts them onto a conveyor line. A second machine will load the box with product. A third machine will close, seal and label the boxes.

Combi custom builds and sells the machines, often assembling the components as a complete end-of-the-line system.

A Combi grew, the company started ordering tape to seal boxes from 3M Co., which made the large corporation curious. Once 3M saw Ballos' operation, it recommended a joint venture that include Siat, an Italian machine company that later was purchased by Mallis Group, based in Greece.

Ballos retired several years ago, and Combi now is a joint venture operation between 3M and Mallis Group. The local operation also is a distribution center for 3M-Matic 3M and Mallis products.

Combi relocated to the site last summer. It started off in buildings at 5365 E. Center Road NE in Plain Township, before moving to the larger facility.

Combi has added 70 employees — both new workers and replacements — to expand its workforce to 160 people. Sue Lewis, Combi's marketing director, said customers were adding equipment last year. The strong economy and tight labor market are reasons why companies have been automating, she said.

Belgian bank teams with Diebold Nixdorf

Belfius Bank and Insurance will have Diebold Nixdorf upgrade its branches and automatic teller machines.

The bank will used Diebold Nixdorf's integrated hardware, software and managed services to simplify its ATM channel management, streamline operations and improve customer experience. Belfius plans to upgrade 650 branches and nearly 2,400 self service machines using the DN Vynamic Software Suite.

Sylvie Busschaert, head of strategic projects and branch transformation for Belfius said, the company wanted to simplify end-to-end management of its self-service network. Diebold Nixdorf "best fit our needs, all the while supporting us in delivering our digital and mobile banking strategy," he said in a news release.

Diebold Nixdorf has a long relationship with Belfius, said Neil Emerson, senior vice president and managing director for Banking Eurasia. "Our leading technology, expertise and delivery makes us a strong partner to help the bank provide the optimal in-branch experience that consumers expect," Emerson said.

Diebold Nixdorf expects to have the Belfius system upgraded by the end of 2020.

Barbco names exec

Thomas W. Schmidt has been named operations manager, a new position, for Barbco, a Canton Township company that manufactures horizontal earth boring machinery.

Schmidt will oversee quality control, safety, compliance, shipping and receiving, maintenance and marketing. He has prior manufacturing experience with Harrison Paint, Heineman Saw Co. and Georgia Pacific.

In the community, Schmidt has served on the boards for the Canton Regional Chamber and former Jackson Belden Chamber, and worked with United Way of Greater Stark County. He received the 2019 United Way of Greater Stark County recognition for collaboration of the year for helping Progress 4TheCure raise money for breast cancer departments at Aultman Hospital and Mercy Medical Center.

Sales milestone

Southeastern Equipment's branch on Applegrove Street NW in Jackson Township helped Kobelco Construction Machinery USA's plant sell its 1,000th excavator in April.

The local Southeastern Equipment branch sold the machine to A Crano Excavating, one of its long-time customers. It was the 25th Kobelco excavator sold by the branch.

Southeastern has been selling, servicing and renting heavy equipment since 1957, with 18 branches located throughout Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Indiana.

Vehicle sales drop

New vehicle dealers around Northeast Ohio saw sales fall April, according to the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers' Association.

April sales totaled 21,193 vehicles, down 2.67 percent compared with 22,133 vehicles sold in April 2018, the association reported. So far this year, dealerships have reported 78,424 vehicles sold, a 4.25-percent drop from 80,577 last year.

The slowed sale trend was expected, said Louis A Vitantonio, the association's president. He noted, however, that sales numbers fare favorably to April 2017 and that April 2018 had seen sale rise 9 percent from 2017. "We are still seeing strong sales numbers in the Northern Ohio market, including used vehicle sales trending considerably higher," Vitantonio said.

The association includes dealerships in 21 Northeast Ohio counties, including Stark, Tuscarawas and Carroll.

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