The first product designed and built by Pre-Pack Machinery was the “Bihl Packer.” This semi-automatic packing machine was developed by Bob and his father-in-law, William Bihl. Bihl operated large truck farms in Ohio and was one of the first to market washed, ready-to-eat spinach in a bag. Although the fresh-cut produce industry was in its infancy, Bob quickly saw the potential for “fresh-cut.”
The Bihl Packer allowed processors to package 25 to 30 bags a minute instead of 5 or 6 bags a minute. As the fresh cut industry grew, so did Pre-Pack Machinery. The need for washing, drying, cutting, and conveying existed. By placing packing machines in various facilities, Pre-Pack Machinery had the opportunity to work with customers in plant layout, design, and fabrication of processing equipment to fit customers’ specific needs.
In 1970, Pre-Pack Machinery designed a lettuce cutter that then was 3 times faster than any other machine on the market. There was hope of it becoming Pre-Pack Machinery's 2nd “production” piece of equipment. The machine was never sold because of Bob’s fear of someone getting hurt from the machine. Bob also designed an automatic doughnut machine, but again, safety issues stopped the production of that machine.
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In the mid-90s, fresh-cut fruit started to be processed by a few Pre-Pack Machinery customers that were also processing fresh-cut vegetables. Shortly thereafter, Pre-Pack Machinery was approached by several processors to develop a heavy-duty industrial peeler for melons. In February of 1999, Pre-Pack Machinery's first automatic melon peeler was installed at Handi-Pak (later Fresh Del Monte Produce), the first of many.
Pre-Pack Machinery introduced the Automatic Melon Peeler at the 1999 IFPA Conference and Exhibition. Because some potential customers were skeptical of the new peeler, Pre-Pack Machinery confidently sent its new peelers out to the customers' facility for free two-week testing and evaluation. The peelers did such a great job that each one of the peelers was purchased at the end of the evaluation period.
In addition to specialized equipment and machinery for the fresh-cut produce industry, Pre-Pack Machinery also specializes in providing high-end custom machine shop services to the Greater Champaign, Illinois community.
The next generation:
Rick Martin joined Pre-Pack Machinery in January 1989, and Steve Bray was hired in January of 1991. They had been friends for many years and had even worked together for a business machine company. As Bob became less and less involved in the day-to-day operations of Pre-Pack Machinery, Steve began running the shop, while Rick took over the administrative side of the business. In January of 2001, Steve and Rick bought Pre-Pack Machinery.
Pre-Park Machinery was founded in
1964 by W.J. "Bob" Scherer,
in Bob's garage.