Raw material price hikes related to an uptick in hurricane activity during the past two years, along with the subsequent cost pressures on plastics companies, have been well-documented.
Many processors have implemented lean-manufacturing principles, automation and increased use of recycled materials to help offset rising costs. Others have employed another strategy entirely - making hurricane-resistant products.
In Clearwater, Fla., Superior Mold Inc. is injection molding its hurricane clamp product, an inside-the-window-mounted clamp that can hold as much as 1,000 pounds of pressure on a three-quarter-inch piece of plywood.
The glass-filled nylon sleeve and clamps can protect windows and walls from sustained winds greater than 150 mph, said Bob Kamphey, Superior president, in a June 28 telephone interview.
The small molder has fewer than 10 employees, though it is a 24/7 operation.
Kamphey thinks they've found a gold mine with the new clamps, saying he expects $5 million to $6 million in annual clamp sales within the next three years.
``We see retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's and the big warehouse places picking these up and having them for their customers,'' he said. ``Eventually, we will see that.''
Large firms, like Pittsburgh-based Alcoa Inc. and Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont Co., are getting in on the act as well.
A collaboration between the two industry giants has resulted in a hurricane-resistant architectural wall panel designed for the commercial building and construction market.By combining Alcoa's Reynobond aluminum composite material with DuPont's Kevlar fabric, the companies have come up with a wall that can withstand sustained wind speeds as strong as 130 mph.
Both the wall panels and Superior Mold's clamps have gone through independent testing by Hurricane Test Laboratory LLC in Riviera Beach, Fla.
Alcoa and DuPont officials in a news release call the new panels ``an ideal cladding material for the faades of commercial office and public buildings, such as schools, libraries, museums, hospitals and other small and midsize structures, particularly in hurricane- prone areas like the U.S. Gulf region.''
Northstar Vinyl Products LLC in Kennesaw, Ga., has been busy constructing hundreds of miles of sea walls along the Gulf Coast areas hit hard last year by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The company extrudes vinyl and pultrudes a glass-fiber composite wall panel it uses to build its sea walls.
Jason Monday, Northstar's senior sales manager, said the opportunity for plastics-based sea walls are virtually limitless.
``New waterfront is always being created through dredging or some new developments,'' Monday said. ``There are millions of miles of replaceable bulkheads out there.''
Siding and window manufacturers also have invested in storm-resistant products, as was evidenced by the number of products on display at the International Builders' Show back in January.