The COVID-19 crisis has created wild swings in demand for some plastics products. But it would be hard to top the one seen at Covestro's polycarbonate film plant in South Deerfield, Mass.
In two months — February and March — the plant saw as many orders for medical film as it usually does in a whole year. The film is needed for medical face shields used by health care workers.
"Film for medical typically isn't a big market for us," Plant Manager Jim Boehm said in an April 28 interview. "But we saw a big demand reach from customers, including some who couldn't get PETG film."
He added that the plant, which employs more than 100, was able to "rearrange orders" to meet demand for the medical film and now is making "as much as we can." Covestro also has been able to import some film from its plant in Thailand to help fill orders.
Covestro's response in South Deerfield was helped by the fact that it already was making the medical film and did not need to change any of its machinery. The firm also has benefited from a decision last year to move the plant to 24/7 production.
Orders for medical PC film remained strong in April, Boehm said. The plant also has seen increased orders for its thermoplastic polyurethane film, which is used in surgical gowns and drapes.
Boehm credited Covestro's South Deerfield employees for handling the requirements of the COVID-19 crisis.
"We started early on with social distancing and working from home where we could," he said. "Our primary objective is the safety of our employees."
"I'd really like to thank our essential production workers for meeting demand to handle this terrible virus. They've done a really great job."