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Polyair rebuilds from Sandy with help from Process Control

By: Jim Johnson

April 16, 2014

Hurricane Sandy gutted Polyair Inter Pack Inc.’s Carlstadt, N.J., plant more than a year ago, and Brian Clawson won’t soon forget the devastation.

He can still picture sloshing around the site in his boots, amid the water, slime, raw materials and finished goods that were once strewn together on the factory floor.

“The plant up there had over 3 feet of water in it from front to back. Most of the equipment was wiped out. All of the control panels, all of the electronics were wiped out in the plant,” the engineering specialist for Polyair said.

“It was just total devastation,” added Plant Manager Joseph P. Hickey in a separate interview.

But that was then, and this is now and the plant is back doing what it does: making bubble wrap and associated products.

And that’s thanks, in part, to the folks at Process Control Corp.

Making bubble wrap in Carlstadt requires a whole host of equipment and raw materials and logistics. One piece of equipment helps another do its job.

That’s where Process Control came to the rescue, pushing work to the front of its production line to help deliver new equipment in a matter of just a few weeks instead of months to the Polyair site.

“Within three weeks we had equipment, which was just amazing,” Clawson said. “They actually were so quick to react that they were ahead of everybody else we had lined up, which really, really helped us out.”

Process Control provided both a new grinder and a new resin pump as Polyair worked to rebuild the facility. The resin pump moves material from storage silos into a blender where it is prepared for processing. The grinder handles the site’s manufacturing waste that is recycled and mixed with virgin pellets to make new product.

“The place was wiped out. We had no phones. No computers,” Clawson remembered. Even cell phone usage was spotty because local towers were overloaded with traffic.

It was a time when finished rolls of bubble wrap served as chairs as Clawson and fellow employees worked their phones to line up goods and services to reopen the site.

Despite the level of damage sustained by the plant, the glum mood of the workers started to shift within a week after the flooding, Hickey said.

“When all of our employees saw that we were going to stand behind them, they stood behind us. We were able to dive in headfirst,” he said.

No workers were laid off during reconstruction of the facility. Employees were kept on the payroll to help clean up the facility wherever they could, and Hickey credits support from the company’s upper management as well as outside vendors as keys to restoring the facility by last March.

Cleanup crews, after Sandy hit in late October 2012, initially needed two or three weeks just to clear all of the debris and clean the building. Because of contamination concerns from toxins in the floodwaters, the company was required to sweep out the site five times and mop down the site another five times before it was deemed safe.

Only then could Toronto-based Polyair start rebuilding.

For the folks at Process Control, calls from customers in a bind do happen from time to time, said Mark Venable, a process engineering manager for the Atlanta-based company. And the company does what it can to help get their customers out of problems.

To help Polyair, the company was able to push production of the grinder to the front of the assembly line after asking another firm to delay its own grinder order.

Process Control does not make equipment to keep on hand for inventory purposes because those machines are expensive and come with a variety of options.

To push the grinder and pump through the assembly process in a fraction of the time normally needed, Process Control used some overtime as well as expedited purchase of parts, Venable said.

“That’s certainly a rewarding thing,” he said about helping out Polyair. “It’s a bonus when you can help someone in this kind of situation and help keep their business going and trying to minimize the devastation that the hurricane caused.

“That makes the job very rewarding,” he said.

Clawson is on the road constantly, moving from one Polyair location to another to do his job. The work — new equipment installation, training and troubleshooting — can be predictable and routine.

But not this time.

“You never wish that upon anybody,” he said about the damage and cost to his company. “That was a new, challenging experience.”