Two industry veterans are back to serve the automation needs of manufacturers.

Like the fabled phoenix rising from the ashes, numerous enduring companies have been founded in the depths of a recession. History is replete with examples of companies, such as GM, IBM and FedEx, that were launched in down markets.

Perhaps taking their cue from this admirable tradition, two veterans are moving into position to serve the automation needs of automotive, electrical, electronics, medical and consumer product manufacturers. HB Automation LLC in Deep River, CT, was founded in October 2009 by Heinz Bockard who, with his colleague Bill Bodine, will bring the automation and plastics divisions of Gefit S.p.A. full-force into the U.S. market.

Based in Alessandria, Italy, Gefit is a privately held, family-owned company founded in 1967. Before it became an independent company, it was the in-house machine builder of the Guala Group, a leading European manufacturer of injection-molded plastic parts and packaging products. Thus when this in-house operation was purchased by the present owner, Gefit had already a wealth of experience in making high-volume multicavity plastic injection molds, and in building assembly machines for high-volume production.

Today, Gefit comprises five production units in Italy, Hungary, China and America with about 250 employees. Gefit’s Automation Div. makes equipment that we would consider more traditional automation, such as indexing assembly machines, conveyorized assembly systems, robotic cells and lean cells. Production rates for these machines range from 5,000 to 10,000 parts per hour. The Plastics Div. builds high-volume multicavity molds for making plastic parts. It also builds high-speed indexing dial machines and continuous motion machines for assembling these small plastic components. Production rates range from 5,000 to 40,000 parts per hour. To learn more, visit

Gefit established its first manufacturing facility in America by acquiring Livernois Engineering in Livonia, MI, in 2006. Livernois equipment has produced radiators, heaters and other heat exchangers made by the world’s leading OEM and aftermarket manufacturers since 1949. Now that HB Automation will be representing Gefit’s Automation and Plastics Divs., that facility will serve as a technical service and support center.

While HB Automation is a newcomer to the U.S. automation and plastics scene, Bockard and Bodine are hardly new kids on the block. Bockard has been part of the U.S. automation scene since Pittler Machine Tools, his employer in Germany, sent him over in 1967. He then served as vice president of Schunk Automation Systems, the North American arm of the Schunk Group GmbH in Giessen, Germany. He subsequently bought the firm and changed the name to Global Automation, which was the North American agent for mta automation ag in Gals, Switzerland, and was recently purchased by mta. “Our immediate goal with HB Automation is to expand both the plastics and automotive businesses,” says Bockard, “but right now there’s more opportunity in the plastics area, especially in the Northeast, so we’ll be focusing initially on both molding and assembling plastic parts for applications such as caps and closures, cosmetic dispensers, packaging and medical products.”

There aren’t all that many third generation assembly automation builders around, but Bodine is one. Following in the substantial footprints of his father, Edward F. Bodine, and his grandfather, Alfred VanSant Bodine, who founded The Bodine Corp. at the depth of the Great Depression, he was immersed in the automated assembly machine business before he could walk around the shop. “We see ourselves as the local face-to-face liaisons for Gefit here in the U.S.,” Bodine says, “so that people shouldn’t be bashful about asking us to sit down and meet with them.” Machines will mainly be built and tooled in Italy and delivered directly, he says, and although trials will normally be done in Italy, runoffs can be done at Livernois if the customer prefers.