APS Elastomers, a distributor of high-performance thermoplastic elastomers, has nearly doubled both its warehouse space and inventory in a new Westland, Mich., location, improving customer assistance overall and, particularly, for those battling the coronavirus pandemic.
Deemed an essential supplier, APS said TPEs are "desperately needed" to manufacture products like face masks, adding that it also intends to assist small and midsized plastics manufacturers to survive this difficult period by managing its supply chain to offer competitive pricing.
"APS employees are excited to know they are contributing to the battle against COVID-19 and they are going out of their way to keep the workplace sterilized in a safe work environment," said Roger Huarng, co-owner of APS Elastomers with Stephane Morin.
Besides sourcing TPE resins for the face masks manufactured by custom molders in California, Utah and Florida, APS is sourcing TPEs and providing technical services for medical testing tubes and holders; medical tubing; medical device wire jacking; respirator filter housing and mask straps, Huarng said.
"Our ability to source materials globally ensures availability, and by selecting our supplying partners based on geography and technical know-how, we can provide quality elastomers at competitive pricing," Morin said.
Besides TPEs, APS Elastomers supplies thermoplastic polyurethanes, thermoplastic vulcanizates and styrenic-based TPEs from multiple international sources, allowing APS to be versatile in matching its product to both chemistry and process, Huarng said.
And at 40,000 square feet, its new warehouse in Westland is nearly twice the size of its previous location 10 miles south in Romulus, Mich., allowing APS to respond quickly with inventory on hand when other domestic TPE suppliers have been adversely affected by the pandemic. Both Westland and Romulus are Detroit suburbs.
"We have been in operation since the end of February, and the [new] warehouse offers us better material flow and increased inventory," Huarng said. "All our inventory already was moved by the end of February, fortunately."
He added that though the Westland facility is operational, the compounding line is not yet up and running. APS said it also plans to install a new testing lab at the Westland site.
The larger warehouse allows APS to meet fluctuating demand during volatile times, Huarng said. Like many other suppliers to OEMs and aftermarket customers in nonessential industries, demand has decreased considerably, while upticks have been realized in other essential markets.
"We have seen a significant downward trend, up to 60 percent, in automotive, oil and gas, and sporting goods, among others," Huarng said. "But we have also seen increasing demand, up to 40 percent, in electronics wire and cable, connectors, kitchen aids, health care and medical devices, and FDA-related products."
Huarng calls APS "one-stop shopping" for its customers.
"APS is a full-service TPE distributor and compounder," he said, adding the company offers consultation in product design, mold and die design, process troubleshooting, custom formulations and fast responses, generally within 24 hours during normal operations.
But as these are far from normal operations, APS has limited its warehouse personnel — and the company still boasts delivery times within a week.
"To better protect our employees, we have limited warehousing operation down to one operator and Thursday weekly shipping only, while all office staff are working remotely from home," Huarng said.
"The only delay during this move is related to the compounding line."
Having a business model that advocates increasing safety stock year on year has been fortuitous for APS customers during the pandemic, Huarng said.
"Recognizing that we are an inventory distributing service for our customers, that's the reason why we have increased our safety stocks year after year," Huarng said.
APS has nine employees, including two lab technicians, three warehouse workers, two office staffers and two sales representatives, Huarng said.
Brands that APS markets include Zythane TPUs, Maxelast TPEs and Viprene TPVs, as well as TPE alloys, a compounding series, and custom and standard soft elastomer formulations.
"We continue to expand and diversify our TPE portfolio by adding new product offerings and aligning ourselves with manufacturing partners to better serve our customers in North America," Morin said.
APS serves the consumer products, industrial goods, medical, electronic, transportation, wire and cable, sporting goods, appliance and power tool, lawn and garden equipment, household goods, aircraft and aerospace and toy industries.