Every business had plans before COVID-19 hit U.S. shores. Some, like Grand Traverse Plastics Corp. in Traverse City, Mich., still have an aggressive posture as it looks to grow.
GTP Vice President of Sales and Marketing Jeff Ignatowski spoke with Plastics News Publisher Brennan Lafferty about acquisitions, diversification and Rising Stars for this Michigan-based company.
What follows is an edited transcript of their conversation. The full interview is available online at www.plasticsnews.com/audio as part of our new "What Keeps You Up At Night?" podcast.
Q: Give us the elevator speech on Grand Traverse Plastics. Number of employees? Markets you serve? Number of machines?
Ignatowski: We have 107 employees, and we run five days a week. We have a campus up in northern Michigan in Traverse City, where we have three facilities. We primarily serve the automotive market — something that we're looking to expand upon. We're currently running 22 machines.
Q: The global COVID-19 pandemic is on everybody's mind. How has that impacted your operations? Are you running at the same capacity as you were in January or February?
Ignatowski: No, unfortunately. We were seeing record sales just prior to COVID-19. Initially, we received an exemption and we continued to run based on supplying the automotive industry. We supply the industrial markets that required us to run as well. But when the automotive industry eventually decided to stop, we stopped one of our facilities. And then we fulfilled the immediate requirements for our industrial customers. So, we've been down for a good 30 days, but we expect to be up and running [the week of April 27].
Q: How many shifts will be running when you restart?
Ignatowski: There's a lot of uncertainty, as you can expect. General Motors, one of our largest customers, has given us some releases. We are going to have all three shifts running initially just to see what kind of releases and capacity needs we have.
Q: We've reported your facility, known as Plant Three, has plans to operate lights-out. Is that plan still on track?
Ignatowski: We are continuing to move forward with the conversion to that lights-out facility. Initially, we're looking at maybe four presses, but looks like we'll just turn that down to three presses.
Q: Will Grand Traverse Plastics continue to have acquisition mindset?
Ignatowski: We are still actively looking for an acquisition. In fact, we hope to be starting the due diligence stage shortly. One of the things we've acknowledged is not only are we heavy in the automotive industry, but also geographically being in northern Michigan.
Although nice, I have noticed we do need some expansion. So, the Southeast seems to be a good target for both geographic and market diversification for us. Hopefully, the one that we have lined up right now will continue to move forward.
Q: Any thoughts of entering the medical market anytime soon?
Ignatowski: One of the things about medical is the infrastructure requirement. The systems and procedures are very different than most industrial, even automotive, manufacturing. So, we see that is a challenge to try to get into medical, at least, organically. Most likely it will be a complete acquisition of a medical molder and will allow to use their existing expertise to move us forward.
Q: One of your young senior process engineers was just named to the Plastics News Rising Stars list. What does it mean for Grand Traverse to know you've got some young talent handling some pretty big responsibilities?
Ignatowski: Yeah, we're very proud of Andy [Caperton]. One of the things that's even more heartwarming is that he worked his way up. He decided he was going to make a career out of the plastics. In fact, he will be the one responsible to manage Plant Three that we discussed.