Extreme cold, snow and ice that hit the U.S. and led to catastrophic failures of the Texas electric grid are continuing to impact molders in the region.
Even companies that never lost power during the worst of the outages were asked to curtail manufacturing to reserve electricity for residential customers and critical facilities, with shutdowns starting Feb. 13. Shipments to and from many molding facilities have been delayed.
Houston-based Birch Plastics Inc. proactively shut down production Feb. 13 to keep its employees off roads ahead of the massive winter storm.
Due to power grid failures, the company was forced to stay shut down until power returned to the plant early Feb. 18, Brandon Cleary, vice president of operations at Birch, told Plastics News.
"All manufacturing came to a screeching halt," Cleary said. "There's no 18-wheelers. … There's no movement with materials coming in. The packaging houses haven't been performing, railroads aren't running. All the resin and raw ingredients we need, things ready to be picked up that were scheduled to be shipped out this week, it's just not happening."
Birch's extrusion department remained down as of Feb. 18 because about 80 feet of pipe supplying water to its extruders "busted," Cleary said. "Right now I have employees scouring the city, wherever is open, trying to find plumbing supplies to get the water pump back up so we can turn on our extruders."
Cleary said he hoped they will be able to find supplies in time to get extrusion production back online by Feb. 21, "but we're so far behind."
"Tonight there's supposed to be another hard freeze," he said. "Plumbing supplies are very limited and the glue, if it's under 50° it doesn't really set right."
Intermittent power outages since Feb. 15 have "greatly" impacted recycling company Alandro Plastic Resources LLC's factory in Brownsville, on the U.S.-Mexico border, said Jorge Alvarez, managing member of the post-industrial resin recycler.
"With power coming in and out for the last four days, we really could not project any finish goods or fulfill pending orders," he said in a Feb. 18 email.
The company sources plastic scrap from manufacturing companies on the Mexican side of the border, but those sites had to shut down because the region depends on natural gas from Texas to power its electrical grid, he said.
"Therefore our inflow of material to be processed also took a hard hit," he said. "Right now we are at 75 percent production. It will take until next week without disruptions to stabilize."
Alvarez said the company's also seeing higher freight costs with fuel getting more expensive and driver availability limited, and he predicted prices on some resins would increase because of the shutdowns.
CEO Jeff Applegate at Texas Injection Molding LLC in Houston said his company had minimal impact and had its power most of the time.
"We had a couple broken supply lines that were repaired and had to shut down last night due to rolling power shutdowns. All considered we did very well," he wrote in a Feb. 18 email.
Houston-based Masterduct Inc., an industrial hose and ducting manufacturer, fell about four days behind on production, according to Ross Blanford, sales director.
The company was without power Feb. 14-18 and experienced water pressure issues.
"There were a lot of water main breaks in Houston. You can't bring employees back [because] there's no water and the electricity might go off any minute," Blanford said in a phone interview.
The remote sales force also lost access to inventory and other company systems, which hampered their ability to serve customers, Blanford added.