Updated—Coping with Coronavirus: One Blow Molder’s Response
Confer Plastics is pulling out the stops to make and ship products before a state-mandated shutdown.
What do you do to protect your customers if your state authorities tell you to shut down and send your workers home until the current health crisis is over? Bob Confer, president of Confer Plastics in North Tonawanda, N.Y., sent out a letter Monday that outlines one energetic response.
Confer Plastics is working overtime to make and ship blow molded products before a state-mandated two-week shutdown.
Confer Plastics makes a well-known line of blow molded pool and spa accessories and also does custom blow molding, with 18 machines and over 220 employees.
Confer noted that N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo “requested that businesses voluntarily shut down and he hinted that a mandatory shutdown is likely coming soon. Confer Plastics will be in operation this week (the week of March 15th) and next (the week of March 22nd). After that, we will go into a 2-week shutdown. That shutdown could be longer if county, state, or federal officials institute mandatory closures. Realize, too, that the start of the shutdown could change: The Governor and/or other officials could mandate closing as early as this week.”
He adds, “We encourage all customers to bring in the inventory that they need to keep their business going for the next 5 weeks or so. We will be having extended hours this week and next at our distribution center. We have plenty of pool and spa products in inventory and will be making more over these two weeks. Also, we will be altering our production schedule to make sure we get some of the custom jobs that are on order done before the shutdown.”
Confer was quoted in two local newspapers, Lockport Journal and Niagara Gazette, as adding a hopeful tone for this anxious season. He said customers have complained about disruption of their supply chains from China and consequently are considering “reshoring” as a long-term alternative. He also noted that plant closings abroad due to the coronavirus have washed out some producers of “copycat” products that mimic Confer’s. And third, Confer hopes that the drastic reduction of vacation travel will increase demand for stay-at-home recreational products like those made by his firm.
On March 19, Bob Confer sent out another message. He noted that N.Y. Gov. Cuomo mandated on March 18 that all businesses in the state have no more than half their workforce on-site. The next day, he cut that to one-quarter of a company’s workforce.
“We cannot operate the factory missing 75% of our workforce,” Confer stated in his message. “Therefore, we are beginning our shutdown a week early, at 4:00 pm March 20. Production will be idled through April 12th”—though he cautioned that the date of reopening could change, depending on county, state and local governments.
He added, “Next week, we will maintain shipping operations at our distribution center. If you would like to book shipments and haven’t already, we encourage your to do so immediately, as this is a fluid situation.”
I’m citing Confer Plastics here as just an example of how plastics processors are dealing with this crisis, thanks to the unusual openness and candor this company has exhibited in its recent public communications.
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