The thought that companies making products for medical have been immune to the downturn brought on by the coronavirus pandemic isn't entirely accurate.
While many plastics firms that focus on the medical industry have seen strong business throughout, there are some that work in areas that were hurt by COVID-19. For example, some processors making components for goods used in elective surgery saw that business drop precipitously early in the shutdown, as people were urged to stay away from hospitals unless absolutely necessary.
Mark Rathbone, founder, owner and CEO of PTI Engineered Plastics in Macomb, Mich., said he always thought his company was pretty much bulletproof because 70 percent of the business is medical.
"But the medical we provide is considered to be elective-type surgeries," he said. "So when you're getting a colonoscopy or a catheterization, or some type of laparoscopic surgery, they were all kind of put off."
Because of that, PTI's business fell off in this area, causing a 25-30 percent decline on the manufacturing side of the business, according to Rathbone.
The company was involved in the ventilator venture between General Motors and Ventec Life Systems, and it also developed a face shield with a visor strap.
"We put together a tool package and turned it around in six to seven weeks ourselves," Rathbone said. "We started manufacturing it, and from the end of March until August we made over 150,000 face shields and donated them to first responders, municipalities, food bank people, people working with people in need."
PTI now has gotten to the point where it started selling the face shields on the open market for a price of $7.50, so he said that, not counting efforts in making the tooling, the firm donated about $1.1 million worth of masks.
The firm was deemed essential early in the crisis, but Rathbone said some staff — the firm employs 350 — felt vulnerable and wondered why they were working when other businesses had to shut down.
But between the ventilator and face shield projects, he said it helped the employees feel good about what they were doing.
"We started putting some banners around and some Rosie the Riveter posters," he said. "Everybody kind of got the fighting spirit, and doing the face shield project was really good for the morale of our employees."
Buoyed by a payroll protection plan loan, the PTI CEO said most workers were kept on, though some were furloughed with benefits, primarily older workers considered to be more at risk. There still are a few people working from home, while others took Family and Medical Leave Act time to take care of family members.