Production at American Bag Manufacturing Inc. in Houston is expected to resume early in the week of Sept. 4 following repairs to a damaged roof that let in the pounding rains. Sam Trevino, who works in sales, was the first employee to make it to the facility.
“I live nearby and I'm the only one who could find routes to drive around the water and get here,” Trevino said 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 baked goods and deli items.
“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. Nearly 700 businesses in the state sustained damage, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Texas ranks third in the United States 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. Companies reached by Plastics News were eager to get back to normal.
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. “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 customers including 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.”
Offering extra capacity
All-Plastics LLC in Addison, Texas, has extra capacity and is offering to help any businesses dealing with building damage.
“It's a tragedy to see everything that has unfolded with this storm,” Marketing Manager Jennifer Latiolais said. “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.”
However, a lot of businesses were plagued with phone issues. The staff at Providence, R.I.-based Tarnell Co. LLC, which provides support services to the plastics industry and focuses on the secondary supply chain, has been contacting companies to assess damage and needs. They attempted to reach about 335 of the more than 400 companies they deal with in Texas as of Aug. 31.
“Of these attempts, 55 companies confirmed moderate or more significant storm-related interruptions and 73 said they didn't have much impact if any at all,” owner Stephen Tarnell said. “But, more significantly, the majority were unreachable. So you don't how severe it is other than they have interrupted phone service.”
Tarnell said the 335 companies purchased about $134 million of resin in the first quarter of 2017. Their status, and the availability of resin, could affect end markets ranging from pipe to packaging.
“This has turned out to be a likely, very scary perfect ugly storm,” Tarnell said.
GSE Environmental Inc., which extrudes geosynthetic liners in Houston, weathered the storm, thanks in part 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,” said Steve Eckhart, vice president of marketing. Most of the 200 employees returned to work.