Plastics firms react to Hurricane Sandy

Published: October 30, 2012 6:00 am ET

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Topics Materials, Packaging, Injection Molding, Machinery

AKRON, OHIO (Oct. 30, 5:30 p.m. ET) – Plastics companies along the East Coast closed early Monday, ahead of Hurricane Sandy, and some remained idle today — and could be shut down for several days.

Here’s a recap of the situation at some companies.

Machinery firms: helping neighbors

Many machinery companies along the East Coast closed early Monday. For some, like American Leistritz Extruder Corp. in Somerville, N.J., workers spent time helping out their neighbors.

“Our engineering manager lives down at the shore and he had five feet of water in his first floor,” said Charlie Martin, general manager.

Stuart Kapp, the company’s sales manager, helped a neighbor put a tarp on his roof after a tree crashed into his house.

Officially, American Leistritz will be closed on Wednesday, but Martin thinks people will start trickling into work. “For the rest of the week it’s really on an individual judgment basis,” he said.

Martin is ready to join his coworkers—but he’s stuck in Houston, after being stranded there while trying to fly back from a weekend football game pitting the University of Southern California at the University of Arizona, in Tucson. He’s been watching the Weather Channel in his hotel room.

Arburg Inc. in Newington, Conn, sent employees home at noon on Monday. “The company was closed yesterday afternoon just to make sure everybody got home safely,” said an Arburg spokeswoman. President Friedrich Kans said the Connecticut governor advised people to stay home that day.

Power remained on at Arburg. “We are back in business, pretty much back to normal here,” Kanz said Tuesday afternoon.

Gloucester Engineering Co. Inc. also closed early Monday, but resumed full operations the next day.

“We were very fortunate here at Gloucester Engineering. We let everybody go yesterday at 3 p.m. just as a precautionary measure,” President Carl Johnson said Tuesday. “But we lost no time and we have no storm damage. We’re up and running 100 percent today.”

Engel Machinery Inc. in York, Pa., closed around noon. “We sent everybody home because we knew it was going to deteriorate,” said President Mark Sankovitch. “Everybody got home and they basically hunkered in. What we told our employees is that safety first, work second.”

Sankovitch said about 70 percent of Engel’s people made it back to work on Tuesday. Others were dealing flooded basements and power outages. “I predict we’ll be back to 100 percent tomorrow,” he said by phone Oct. 30.

Tony Firth said the storm passed almost directly over Negri Bossi USA Inc. in New Castle, Del. “But we were spared the worse of it,” he said. Although there was high winds and some local flooding, “I think we got very lucky,” said Firth, vice president and general manager.

Delaware and parts of neighboring Pennsylvania were under a state of emergency, banning non-emergency traffic on the roads Monday, and Negri Bossi was closed all day. But that was lifted Tuesday morning and the company reopened.

Materials side: Braskem idles PP plant

In the materials sector, hurricane-related weather led Braskem Americas to temporarily idle production of polypropylene resin at its plant in Marcus Hook, Pa., near Philadelphia.

A company spokesman said the plant was not damaged when Hurricane Sandy blew through the region on Oct. 29. Braskem will perform maintenance at the site until infrastructure services are restored, he added.

The plant operates almost 800 million pounds of annual PP capacity. Braskem bought the plant from Sunoco Inc. in 2010.

Phillips 66 PP plant in Linden NJ also down because of storm.

DuPont Co. has temporarily closed its corporate headquarters and research center in Wilmington, Del., but they will reopen Oct. 31. The firm also has closed three plastics-related plants as a result of the storm, which hit the U.S. East Coast Oct. 29. Those include:

• The Edgemoor plant in Dover, Del., which makes titanium dioxide, a whitener used in plastics and other products.

• A plant making parts and shapes made of Vespel-brand polyimide and other products in Newark, Del.

• The Deepwater plant in Pennsville Township, N.J., which makes Hytrel-brand copolyester resins and other products.

The plants will reopen in the next 24 hours. There were no reports of damage, but the area experienced flooding,

Pack Expo: Trouble getting to Chicago

DuPont’s plans at the Pack Expo International trade show in Chicago also were impacted by the storm.

According to Ann Hriciga, global application development manager, eight of the 20 people that were supposed to work the show for DuPont were unable to make it because of weather and flight cancellations.

The superstorm also scotched plans by some machinery executives to attend Pack Expo. Andrew Wheeler, vice president Windmoeller & Hoelscher Corp. in Lincoln, R.I., and some colleagues tried to fly out of Boston Sunday—well before Sandy hit—but the flights were cancelled. They couldn’t get out of Providence and Hartford either, he said.

W&H exhibited at the trade show, and the booth and other personnel left on Saturday, and made it to Chicago with no problems.

A spokeswoman for PMMI, the trade show organizer, said one exhibitor dropped out of the show because of the storm — the name was not available — but so far attendance was fairly normal. As of the end of the day on Oct. 30, about 44,000 people had attended the show, out of 46,000 that had pre-registered.

Processors: With no power, shutdowns widespread

On the processing side, calls to companies in the most heavily impacted areas drew automated responses on Oct. 30, probably the result of plant closings and power outages.

A power outage forced injection molder Nypro Inc. to shut down production at its Clinton, Mass., plant for one shift during the storm, but did not miss any scheduled deliveries, said spokesman Al Cotton.

The day and evening shifts were able to run up until the power went out at about 11 p.m. Monday, forcing Nypro to cancel work for the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift. Power was gradually restored by morning, though, allowing workers on the day shift to bring presses back on line throughout the day.

Although Clinton was well north of the storm's landfall, it recorded winds in excess of 60 mph, Cotton noted, which likely caused the outages when trees and limbs fell. The company has a good relationship with its utility supplier, he noted, and is on a priority list for fast response during storms.

Plastics News reporters and correspondents Bill Bregar, Frank Esposito, Rhoda Miel, Jessica Holbrook and Frank Antosiewicz contributed to this report.


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Plastics firms react to Hurricane Sandy

Published: October 30, 2012 6:00 am ET

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