As we move on from the Labor Day weekend here in the U.S., let's take a moment to look back on a very unusual summer. To start with, how can we have moved past Labor Day already? This was a summer that seemed reluctant to arrive (insert the March 113th joke here) and yet with a school year that still has many kids at home, we lack a transition to "fall."
It's been the summer of the staycation with spending on decks, pools, floors and mattresses rather than travel.
Auto suppliers, toymakers and custom molders of every stripe developed new skills as medical molders to make personal protective equipment and medical equipment, all while providing income to their employees and supporting their communities.
One question still unanswered in the middle of all this is how the industry and the economy in general will recover. A lot of manufacturers have been able to hire back workers. The auto industry, for instance, is back building new models, but at a greatly reduced annual production volume. But appliance sales have lagged even though consumers are investing in their homes, according to Plastics News Economics Editor Bill Wood.
It's a good time to provide packaging for food or film for e-commerce shipping, although resin may be in shorter supply after Hurricane Laura caused materials makers to shut down production along the Gulf Coast.
Somehow in the middle of all this, companies figured out how to do mergers and acquisitions in the middle of lockdowns and travel restrictions, while marketing and sales teams became as adept at Zoom calls and Microsoft Teams as they are at working a trade show floor.
Toolmakers like Rochester, N.Y.-based Accede Mold & Tool Co. Inc. developed systems to do live virtual mold qualifications with customers hundreds of miles away. (So much for the outdated thinking that mold makers were too old fashioned to embrace technology.)
But there are still questions about what shape any economic recovery will take. Will it be a steady return to normal? Or are we still facing another shock to the system that will see another round of shutdowns?
On the one hand, you've got some major businesses making permanent job cuts: 1,400 white-collar jobs at Ford Motor Co., 30,000 in cost-cutting moves at auto supplier Continental AG, and office furniture giant Steelcase Inc. cutting 300 jobs.
On the other hand, there's news such as KraussMaffei breaking ground on a new building for its extrusion business in Laatzen, Germany, that will replace an older site near Hanover, with room for up to 750 employees.
What does this all mean during the age of COVID-19, when we don't know exactly when there will be a cure or vaccine? Damned if I know. But we've made it through a lot of uncertainty so far. Let's show some faith we'll make it through at least another season.
Miel is a Plastics News assistant managing editor and author of the daily Kickstart blog. Follow her on Twitter @PNRhodaMiel.