Spartech LLC will add more than 20 jobs at an Ohio plant, as the COVID-19 crisis has increased demand for clear acrylic sheet.
"To meet the increased demand for clear barrier materials in combating the coronavirus, we were able to quickly adapt our processes to start producing plexiglass [acrylic sheet]," senior plant manager Gary Buckland said in a June 1 news release.
Spartech's plant in Paulding, Ohio, normally makes sheet based on high-impact polystyrene and other plastics. But officials with the Maryland Heights, Mo.-based firm said that in the "new normal," the Paulding team "nimbly shifted" to acrylic sheet, which is used for sneeze guards and other clear protective barriers at grocery stores, retail outlets and schools.
The Paulding plant has already converted two production lines for acrylic sheet and is in the process of converting at least one more line. Officials said that business "continues to accelerate" and that in the two weeks since production began, the plant has produced enough material to equip more than 4,000 grocery store cashier lines.
"If I told our team earlier this spring that we would be making clear plastics, they would have said it cannot happen," Buckland said. "But it is happening, and everyone is doing a great job stepping up to meet this demand."
He added that "to survive and thrive in a crisis, sometimes you have to think outside the box."
"We have adapted to this new business environment and our ability to adapt, stay flexible and be creative has generated more job opportunities for our community," Buckland said.
The plant is looking to add 20 new employees, but Buckland said that number could eventually climb to 40. Spartech has been designated as an essential business. The firm conducts daily health care screenings for employees upon entering all of its plants.
All employees have their temperatures taken before entering a facility and must wear face masks, officials said. In addition, the plant has a rigorous disinfection program throughout the building.
Spartech was No. 24 in the most recent Plastics News ranking of North American film and sheet manufacturers, with sales of $400 million. The company also ranked No. 42 in the current PN listing of North American thermoformers, with estimated sales of $41 million.
The firm operates 15 U.S. plants and serves end markets including food packaging, aerospace and automotive.
Spartech has been owned since October by Nautic Partners LLC of Providence, R.I., which acquired the business from Arsenal Capital Partners.