North Tonawanda, N.Y.-based blow molder Confer Plastics Inc. purchased a used blow molding machine in response to an "explosive growth" for the swimming pool and spa industry, part of a "staycation" trend caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We're looking at all of the stay-at-home orders requiring people to invest in their backyard," President Bob Confer told Plastics News. "If we see that this staycation economy is something that's going to last for an extended period, say three to five years or more, then we're definitely going to expand again."
The purchase will not only help the swimming pool accessory manufacturer meet the current increased demand, but will also give it some capacity flexibility amid the crisis, Confer said.
"There's always that risk that New York state could shut down businesses if there is a second wave," he said. "We can ramp up production as we see the numbers start to lead toward that second wave of the shutdown, add weekends, in order to fill up the warehouse and be ready for that. Then coming out of whatever that shutdown might be, it gives us the ability to be at a higher level of production than we are currently."
The 1999 model-year machine is scheduled to be delivered during the first week of October and in production by mid-November, Confer said. It brings the company up to a total of 20 machines.
Initially the firm faced a "logistical issue," he said, over New York state's COVID-19 travel advisory. The advisory affects anyone returning to New York from states with "a significant degree of community-wide spread of COVID-19," according to the state's website.
Employees of the New York rigging company that Confer uses to take apart, transfer and set up machines would have to quarantine 14 days upon returning from picking up the machine in Ohio.
"We're having two different rigging companies do the project," Confer said. "One in Ohio to take down the machine and then deliver it to New York."
The New York rigging company will assemble it at Confer's facility, he added.
"We're looking at possibly a three-year uptick in the pool and spa industry in response to what happening with COVID," Confer said. "Once everything is taken care of, whether by vaccine or societal controls, we still feel people will spend on that. By that time the economy will be increasing in strength and more people will have discretionary income to spend."