Confer Plastics Inc. in Tonawanda, N.Y., is one of many processors far from the damage Hurricane Harvey caused in Texas, but certainly not out of the reach of ripple effect of possible material shortages.
Founded in 1973, Confer is a blow molder that manufacturers its own line of pool ladders, steps for hot tubs and spa accessories as well as custom jobs. The business uses a lot of high, low and linear low density polyethylene, which could be in short supply.
Owner Bob Confer said "the Boy Scout in me" says prepare for the worst, so he is changing his business strategy for the last quarter of the year by delaying plans to produce 2018 inventory for Confer brand products. Production was scheduled to begin this month, but has been pushed back until mid-October.
"If the polyethylene market doesn't head into the worst-case scenario, we are still guaranteed that there won't be a sense of normalcy for a while, so I am still holding off on producing inventory for my proprietary products for another month," Confer said in an email Sept. 7. "That ensures that we can meet the demands of our custom clients, whose needs are far more immediate than mine."
Confer has ample resin stored on site, including rail cars of materials purchased weeks ago, to fill existing orders and any new ones that might be placed.
"While we aren't in a crisis for the next month or so, I am planning for the potential of one after that if the plastics industry's demands far exceed supply," Confer said. "When I see the bigger manufacturers like [Newell Brands] lowering their earnings forecast because of such supply chain woes, I know that it could be a reality."
Officials at Newell, which manufactures consumer goods, pointed to higher resin costs from alternative domestic and international suppliers when they changed their business forecast Sept. 6.
"We expect these conditions to persist through the fourth quarter of 2017 and resin inflation to now build, rather than contract as previously forecast, through the balance of 2017 and into 2018," Newell CEO Michael Polk said in a statement.