Plastic sheet leader Plaskolite LLC has weathered the COVID-19 storm and is posting strong results in 2021.
"Our backlog of orders is larger than we expected it to be," CEO Ryan Schroeder said in a June 10 phone interview with Plastics News. "Our pre-COVID core business is coming back."
Schroeder faced many challenges in his first year as CEO of Columbus, Ohio-based Plaskolite. He took the job in May 2020, just as the effects of the pandemic were first being felt. For Plaskolite, like many other plastics firms, the worst business impacts from the pandemic proved to be short-lived.
"Our medical sales went up but now are down substantially," Schroeder said. "But they're still higher from where they were before."
Demand for sheet used in medical face masks first caused "a huge run" on clear acrylic sheet, and then for polycarbonate sheet, he explained, before falling into a more steady pattern.
At one point in early 2020, all 10 of Plaskolite's plants were making thin plastic sheet used in medical face shields. Production of glycol-modified PET sheet at those plants was enough to make 3 million shields per week.
For full year 2020, Plaskolite posted sales growth of 15 percent over 2019, as a result of higher sales volumes, said Schroeder, who joined Plaskolite from industrial firm IMI Precision Engineering.
Sales have been strong in 2021 as well, as the firm has worked to source resin amid shortages for resin and raw materials caused by an ice storm that hit Texas in February.
"Resin sourcing hasn't affected our production schedules," Schroeder said. "We're very fortunate to have the supply chain partners that we do. They haven't let us down."
On the production side, Plaskolite installed a new high-output sheet line late last year at its plant in Olive Branch, Miss. The firm will add a new high-output pelletizer at its Columbus plant by the end of 2021, Schroeder said.
Plaskolite also has plans for what Schroeder called "a major project" at its sheet plant in Zanesville, Ohio. He added that details would be released at a later date.
Sales for 2021 are on track to be up 6-8 percent vs. 2021. Schroeder said that sales of sheet into the bath and spa end market remain strong because of "the staycation element."
"People have extra funds, and they're choosing to redo their bathrooms and do other home improvements," he said.
Schroeder said he's been encouraged by the lifting of some pandemic restrictions. Plaskolite recently held its national sales meeting in person in Columbus.
"It was good to see everybody in one place," he said.
Based on sales, Plaskolite is North America's 15th-largest film and sheet maker in Plastics News' 2020 ranking, with all of its sales from sheet. The firm has annual sales of $584 million.
Plaskolite has made 17 acquisitions in the last 13 years and has been majority owned by investment firm Pritzker Private Capital since 2018.
Plaskolite was founded in 1950 by Donald Dunn and his family. Products made by the firm include sheet made for such products as signage and vending machine fronts. Plaskolite serves a diverse customer base including distributors, OEMs and retailers.