Greensboro, N.C.-based Core Technology Molding Corp. developed a continuity plan to meet dramatic spikes in demand from its medical product and pharmaceutical customers this year despite staffing issues due to COVID-19.
The injection molder had trouble hiring enough workers to keep up with demand for its injection molded face shield, which it also assembles, Geoff Foster, founder and CEO of Core, told Plastics News.
"The toughest thing was getting help," Foster said. "We're operating 24/7, so we need people for all different shifts, including the weekend.
"We started hiring high school students from a STEM program to do assembly for the face shields," he added, but those students have now gone back to school.
Core is "slowly" building up its number of employees, but issues like lack of child care due to the pandemic are still prevalent, he said.
In 2019, Core purchased tooling equipment and created its own tool room this January, he said. "We were really poised for triple-digit grossing this year."
The company started seeing lags in demand from its other-sector customer in May, Foster said, when BMW shut down all of its plants globally.
"That made me very nervous," he said. "Our largest customer for aerospace also came to a halt."
"I wouldn't have even thought about retooling until so many customers started calling us and asking if we can do different things," Foster said.
Core started face shield production with its color 3D printer, he said, but that wasn't enough.
"Based on the volumes we were being asked for, we needed a mold designed," Foster said. "So in two weeks, we retooled, we had a face shield mold constructed, and we were selling face shields within 30 days."
"We're still selling them to universities, dental schools, medical schools, churches, even some of the U.S. postal workers are wearing them," he added.
Normally, 10 percent of Core's annual sales are medical. This year, Foster said, medical will be about 50 percent.
Core's clean room, which is normally used to make cases for contact lenses, is now being used for components to be used for COVID-19 vaccines, he said.
This year, Core also earned new automotive and environmental production certificates.
"Doing all of this during the pandemic was really challenging," Foster said.