Materials maker Star Plastics has seen good results from electric vehicle and mobility markets this year and is optimistic about 2024.
EV and mobility "have been consistent" in 2023, interim CEO Dan McMullen said via email. Many other end markets "have slowed down due to weak demand for the end-use products and excess inventories that were built in response to the COVID supply chain issues," he added.
Ravenswood, W.Va.-based Star does compounding work in polycarbonate, ABS and other engineering resins, with a focus on flame-retardant grades. In addition to custom compounding, the firm offers toll compounding services. Star operates two plants in West Virginia and also has licensing and production partnerships in China.
McMullen has served as Star's interim CEO since September, when plastics market veteran Don Wiseman exited to take a similar position with Teknor Apex Co. McMullen joined Star in 2022 as vice president of finance and corporate development. He has more than 30 years of materials market experience.
Like many compounders, Star has seen increased interest in sustainable materials from its customers. Business Director Chuck Hoop said via email that Star "has been an industry leader" in incorporation of recycled materials into its engineered polymer compounds since the firm's inception in 1988.
"[Sustainability] is one of our core competencies," Hoop added.
Star's products are backed by the UL Environmental Claim Validation Procedure for Recycled Content as its third-party validation system. The UL system "gives our customers the assurance that we are walking the walk in sustainability," Hoop said. "For each of our Orion [brand] codes, we have a reNova [brand] offset, which completes our product offer in both amorphous and crystalline materials, including ABS, PC, nylons and alloys."
Star launched Orion-brand engineered resins and reNova-brand recycled resins earlier in 2023.
Post-COVID industry levels also have been a focus area for Star in 2023.
"Companies in 2023 were concerned with the stockouts that they experienced during the COVID pandemic, so they increased their inventory levels at multiple points in the supply chain," McMullen said. He added that the inventory situation was further complicated by excess supply and declining prices.
"We believe we are seeing signs of prices stabilizing and inventories beginning to return to normal levels," McMullen said.
On the personnel side, Star continues to invest in its infrastructure and people. McMullen said the firm "has spent a considerable amount of time and effort" in 2023 providing skills training for employees and bringing new equipment online that expands both production capacity and capabilities.
Looking to 2024, McMullen said that Star "has an improved outlook" for the first quarter and "is anticipating a more robust rebound" and return to normal levels of demand beginning in the second quarter.