Intertech Plastics Inc. began expanding its medical manufacturing facility after adjusting to industry challenges imposed the COVID-19 pandemic this year.
All plans for Intertech's medical facility expansion have been approved, and demolition and build-out will begin on Dec. 23, President Jim Kepler told Plastics News. The $2 million expansion will increase clean room production capabilities, add gowning and ante rooms, nine new 300-ton machines, LED lighting and a HEPA HVAC filtration system. The build-out is expected to be operational by the end of February or early March 2021.
The Denver company started its year with a win when it was awarded Plastics News' 2019 Processor of the Year in February.
"Right after that, the world completely changed," Kepler said.
The company, like many others this year, adapted to demanding changes, including a "major hit" in its line of baby changing stations, he said. "That was a huge customer," Kepler said. "People were not investing in those products."
Intertech took another hit in food packaging for the restaurant industry, which saw a decrease of 75 percent in some cases, he said.
Before COVID-19 hit the U.S., the company manufactured test kits for other viruses. One of its customers was fast-track approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for COVID test kits.
Intertech received support from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which allowed the company to keep all of its employees, Kepler said.
"That really helped some of the losses that we saw at our industrial plant, which were significant," he said. "We kept our staff intact. That funding helped us maintain the talent we had and get through some of those significant downturns."
It also picked up new customers in the recreational and outdoor products market, which helped it "weather the storm," Kepler added.
Some of the demand that was impacted by COVID also ramped back up in August, he said, which was the "greatest profitability month in the company's history."
"By the end of this year, we'll have hit our profitability goals, or close to it, as if COVID didn't happen," Kepler said. "We had to run the businesses as if those customers that were 75 percent down weren't coming back, bring in new opportunities aggressively and when those legacy customers came back on, it pushed us to our highest level."
Another "huge milestone" Intertech passed this year was its 40-year anniversary in May.
"In the thick of" COVID-19 restrictions, Kepler said, the company wasn't able to "stop and recognize it." The company created its own five-year technology road map this year, that it hopes will "push innovation across the board, in all departments, [while] investing in new technologies to differentiate ourselves and align us with new opportunities our customers are looking at."
The company's medical division also received certifications for injection molding, overmolding and mechanical assembly from MedAccred in November.
"The audit process verifies that we have met industry requirements in process capability, equipment, quality controls, qualified personnel and process validation and eliminates timely steps for our potential customers," Kepler said in a Dec. 1 news release. "We want to support medical device manufacturing in the U.S., and this is a step in the right direction."