Steve Trapp has been in the plastics industry for more than 50 years, and he has never seen the convergence of circumstances that is affecting the industry today.
Complications from the COVID-19 pandemic, resin shortages and difficulties in attracting labor create unprecedented challenges for plastics, said the president and chief operating officer of Venture Plastics Inc.
But there are also opportunities, said Trapp.
Venture Plastics, with locations in Newton Falls, Ohio and El Paso, Texas, has annual sales of approximately $ 40 million. That’s three times what Trapp did in 2004, when the company had annual sales of about $ 13 million.
With around 200 employees spread across the two locations, the family company wants to continue growing and ultimately has the goal of cracking the top 100 injection moulders in North America. In the most recent Plastics News rankings, the company was ranked 187th.
“The industry has never seen this before. The controlled distribution, the allocation of materials over such a long period of time. It’s not just one. It’s all, ”he said of the availability of resin these days.
Venture Plastics uses approximately 400 different resin formulations to make injection molded parts, giving the company a broad and deep understanding of the market.
“In the industry, I started on the materials side, so I can refer to my experience from the materials side and now a customer-specific injection molding side. We have never seen that before. We have never had a pandemic in our lives. We never have one When you put all of this together, this is probably one of the toughest times manufacturing has ever seen. And it’s not just the plastics industry, “he said.
Venture Plastics uses resins to make parts for industries and products including batteries, automotive, industrial, commercial and telecommunications, Trapp said. However, when the pandemic caused significant disruptions in demand in some of the company’s key markets, Venture Plastics was able to turn around and win orders for leisure products for the first time.
People stuck at home or near their home suddenly had more time and were looking for relaxation to fill the void. The work gained in the recreational space, Trapp believes, will continue to be an important part of Venture Plastics’ business mix, even as the company’s traditional sectors recover over time.
“The market segments that support leisure activities have just exploded,” he recalls. “We were able to look at new markets. We could try out the stores that we hadn’t explored before.”
With resin typically accounting for 50-60 percent of the total price of a part, Venture Plastics has had to pass on price increases at an unprecedented pace as shipments dwindle. Resin price hikes have been enforced at a pace month after month over the past year or so due to a variety of obstacles including weather blackouts, transportation, and COVID-19.
Flexibility, said Trapp, is a key to success in these challenging times. This means that the production schedules are changed quickly if the shipment of a certain type of resin is delayed. This flexibility includes postponing other jobs by swapping molds to use existing resin.
“It really takes a team approach and that’s why I’m so proud of the group we have,” he said. “It’s going to take a while and I’m just trying to tell the group that we have to expect this in our future for at least another year.
“I think at some point we’ll go back to the old days where you can get material when you need it and you can get the manpower when you need it. But we’ll have another year of it, I’m sure, “he added.