Foam Fabricators Inc. will manufacture expanded polystyrene shipping containers to transport doses of the highly anticipated novel coronavirus vaccine.
The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company said it has been called upon to support distribution of the upcoming vaccine in the United States.
The announcement comes as more than 2,000 Americans die from COVID-19 every day.
Founded in 1957, Foam Fabricators has a national footprint and decades of experience, including distribution support of the vaccine program during the novel influenza A (H1N1) virus outbreak in 2009.
Now, Foam Fabricators will have a hand in the effort to end a global pandemic.
The company will mold strictly specified, insulated containers for the vaccine at 12 U.S. manufacturing plants. The company says the shippers will meet extreme low temperature control requirements for vaccine storage while also being lightweight, low cost and recyclable.
The containers will be suitable for use for all vaccines, including Pfizer's, Foam Fabricators Vice President Michael Hays said in an email. Pfizer's vaccine needs ultracold conditions and must be kept at -70° C, while Moderna's vaccine can be stored at -20° C, which is more like a regular freezer.
Hays said the temperature inside the shippers will vary depending on the refrigerant used and logistics chain. He described EPS as a "sustainable, clean, safe, efficient and reliable workhorse when it comes to programs like COVID-19."
"It's been serving the cushioning and insulation needs of consumers for decades, and it's doing it again right now in the fight against this pandemic," Hays said.
Foam Fabricators is proud to play an important role in the overall vaccine effort, Hays also said.
"Our team recognizes the importance of packaging, and we know better than anyone that without the right solutions, the vaccine cannot safely get to where it needs to go," Hays said. "This is a huge project close to the hearts of many, and our decades of accumulated human and capital resources are being put to the test as we rise to the occasion."
Foam Fabricators operates molding and fabricating facilities across North America for customers in a variety of end markets, including appliances and electronics, pharmaceutical, health and wellness, automotive and building products.
The company has been owned for nearly three years by Compass Diversified Holdings, which says it expanded capabilities to move Foam Fabricators from a simple producer of molded products like ice chests and swim toys into a full-service packaging solutions provider.
Westport, Conn.-based Compass paid $247.5 million to acquire Foam Fabricators from Warren Florkiewicz in early 2018.
Foam Fabricators then made its first acquisition in July when it bought Polyfoam Corp., a foam products maker and injection molder based in Northbridge, Mass. With sales of more than $30 million, 130 employees and a 400,000-square-foot site, the company produces foam products, such as protective and temperature-sensitive packaging for the medical, pharmaceutical, grocery and food industries.
Hays said the acquisition wasn't part of any plan to prepare for the national vaccine rollout, "but at the same time they are now fully part of the Foam Fabricators family and very much involved in this program."
Another part of the effort will involve recycling the containers after the vaccines are delivered. Hays said Foam Fabricators does have a takeback program, and he pointed to the EPS Industry, which says there are 200 sites nationwide that accept polystyrene that is dropped off or mailed back.
"Part of this success story will be the proper reuse, recycling and/or disposal of this great product after its first job is done," Hays said. That's up to all of us to do the right things. The systems and infrastructure are there and ready for use."
Compass CEO Elias Sabo said Foam Fabricators has established itself as a reliable partner for sensitive customer needs.
"With its extensive national footprint, decades of experience and deep expertise, Foam Fabricators is one of the few EPS suppliers in the U.S. that is equipped to overcome the significant logistical challenges of the vaccine's distribution, which include unprecedented demand, quick turnaround and high-quality specifications for packaging," Sabo said in a news release.
Foam Fabricators has 17 molding and fabricating facilities, with U.S. operations in: Compton and Modesto, Calif.; Jefferson, Ga.; Fort Madison, Iowa; New Albany, Ind.; El Dorado Springs, Mo.; Bloomsburg and Erie, Pa.; Anderson, S.C.; Jackson, Tenn.; and Keller, Texas.
The company website also shows two manufacturing sites in Mexico.
In addition, Foam Fabricators formed a partnership with paperboard manufacturer Rational Packaging LLC, which is based in Springfield, Tenn., and specializes in structural packaging components with a unique "wave pattern" said to improve stacking strength.