At plastics processing plants near Houston and other regions along the Gulf Coast, managers and employees are taking note of any damage and making plans to bring production fully back on line.
Production at American Bag Manufacturing Inc. in Houston is expected to resume early next week following repairs to a damaged roof that let in the pounding rains of Hurricane Harvey.
Sam Trevino, who works in sales, was the first employee to make it to the facility.
“I live nearby and I'm the only who could find routes to drive around the water and get here,” Trevino said Aug. 30 in a phone interview. “I'm tearing out carpet, taking orders and answering some emails.”
The operation closed Aug, 24, he said, as Hurricane Harvey gained strength and took aim at the Texas coast. It made landfall a day later as a Category 4 storm. The business makes plastic bags for grocery store customers to package their in-house baked goods and deli items like breads and seafood.
“We have inventory in stock and that will get us through until we're up again,” Trevino said. “It'll be tight until we catch up but we should be OK.”
Similar scenarios played out at many plastics processors coping with the aftermath of Harvey and its torrential rains. Nearly 700 businesses in the state sustained damage from Harvey, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Texas ranks third in the U.S. for plastics employment and first in plastics shipments, according to the Plastics Industry Association. The association has 49 members in Texas, including 16 in hard-hit Houston.
Last year, Texas accounted for 16.8 percent of U.S. shipments, the association says. The estimated value exceeded $68 billion, which is equivalent to $1.3 billion a week. Businesses are eager to resume schedules.
After pumping out a couple inches of flood water, Integrated Molding Solutions Inc. reopened in Houston, but with a skeleton crew.
“We're better off than some businesses. That's for sure,” Production Manager Bob Berndt said in a phone interview Aug. 30. “We were shut down about three days and we've called back employees. Some have made it in but others have problems. Their neighborhoods are flooded and they just can't get out.”
The injection molder serves some major customers like Baker Hughes, Hewlett Packard, Jabil and Foxconn and the limited staff is trying to catch up.
“We were pretty busy,” Berndt said. “Being down for three days puts us significantly behind.”
All-Plastics LLC in Addison, Texas, has extra capacity and is offering to help any businesses dealing with building damage, equipment problems or other issues related to the first major hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. since 2005, along with the record rainfall it brought.
“It's a tragedy to see everything that has unfolded with this storm,” Marketing Manager Jennifer Latiolais said in a phone interview. “We're here to support the businesses that need our help due to the tragedy of Harvey. We've been very lucky. We haven't been affected at all. If any Texas injection molders need help, they can call us. They're local to us and if they reach out, we can talk directly.”
GSE Environmental Inc., which extrudes geosynthetic lining systems in Houston, weathered the storm, thanks to preparations made during a controlled shutdown Aug. 25-26 that included pumping down some storm water ponds at the site.
“I'm sure it helped. We had some place for the excess water to go. When the rain came it was bands that produced 5 inches an hour then it slowed and you'd be hit hard again. For a couple days it didn't stop,” Steve Eckhart, vice president of marketing, said in a phone interview Aug. 31 on the day its offices reopened.
Most of the 200 employees returned to work. Some of the production crew had made it in earlier and began heating the eight extrusion lines back up on Aug. 29.