Stability in uncertain times
Despite the pandemic, New Berlin Plastics expanded in 2020 and is poised for additional growth in 2021.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the United States, many companies held back on making investments because of fear and uncertainty. However, that wasn’t the case at New Berlin Plastics. We reinvested in our business, grew in 2020, and expect our momentum to continue through 2021 and beyond.
Our success is due to our commitment to become more agile – to be operationally and financially prepared for the unexpected. As a result, we maintained our reputation as a high-performing supplier with our customers throughout 2020.
“If you look at what we accomplished in 2020, you wouldn’t know COVID existed,” remarks Jim Schneberger, President of New Berlin Plastics. “The long-term strategic investments we’ve been making in our business ensured we could handle growth and be flexible. That positioned us very well to serve our current clients and prepared us to work with new ones.”
We have always been able to absorb unexpected shocks by being financially conservative, cultivating a diverse roster of customers and investing in the right people and equipment. Here’s a closer look at how we’ve achieved this remarkable level of stability and growth.
A balanced portfolio of customers
During 2020, having a balanced mix of customers gave us the ability to thrive even in the face of unprecedented industry challenges.
“We’ve worked to build a balanced portfolio of customers so if one segment is adversely affected, we can still thrive by serving other segments,” explains Joseph Mechery, Vice President of Sales. “Our ability to create that mix, and mitigate risk, is something all of our customers appreciate – especially in a tumultuous year.”
Our responsiveness was put to the test when COVID-19 changed many aspects of everyday life. Consumers altered their buying habits, setting in motion a shift in demand for plastic parts. As well, companies scaled back or stopped planned projects due to economic uncertainty. This combination puts a lot of stress on manufacturers. Companies that weren’t prepared to withstand that stress found themselves in a bad position this year.
“People couldn’t go on their usual vacations. So they opted to invest in home-improvement projects and outdoor recreation equipment,” Mechery recalls. “That led to sharply increased demand for parts for household appliances, building materials, boats and recreational vehicles. Plus, there was a greater demand for sanitation equipment like paper towel dispensers for handwashing.”
Reinvesting in the company
To help OEMs meet these changing demands, we adjusted quickly to increase our production capacity. We added:
- New 40-, 200-, 330- and 1150-ton presses and auxiliary automation to support them.
- Air compressors, water systems, and material handling equipment to improve our production capacity.
- New in-house laser light scanning inspection equipment to increase the throughput of our quality lab and reduce lead times.
Our most important investment was in qualified people who were ready to use that equipment.
“We can employ technology like never before. But we need skilled people to leverage its full benefits and to ensure a faster return on our investment,” Schneberger emphasizes.
Our investments in robotics and automation have enabled us to redeploy our employees to do higher-value tasks that add even greater value to our operations and our customers.
Power to the people
To further streamline every aspect of our production processes, our employees are trained and empowered to make decisions that help us avoid bottlenecks or slowdowns. We recently implemented standardized training on our production floor so our teams can achieve maximum efficiency and effectiveness with our equipment.
“Our people are in control and motivated to work together. There’s nothing we can’t do,” Mechery points out. “The right teams, properly trained, with the right equipment, help to ensure that tasks get done correctly and on time.”
Outlook for 2021
Our analysis of industry conditions points to shortages of certain resin families during the first six months of 2021. Hurricanes, COVID-19 outbreaks at resin producing facilities and the reallocation of raw materials to make personal protective equipment and other products needed during the pandemic have exhausted the reserves of some resin suppliers.
This may cause problems for OEMs with high part production needs, but we’re prepared to help our customers survive these shortages.
“If a specific resin is unavailable to meet a customer’s forecast, our engineering team can identify and recommend an alternate material to help them avoid a shutdown,” Schneberger says. “We can provide options to help them reduce risk and control cost.”
Another area to watch in 2021 is the U.S. political landscape and how it may impact international trade and stimulus packages, which in turn are likely to drive changes in consumer spending and product demand. We’re ready to help our customers address their evolving part needs quickly.
“We are enthusiastic about 2021 because we see growth and opportunity for our customers,” Mechery says. “We are in a position to take advantage of 2021 and all the good things it has to offer. We want to make sure our customers can do the same.”
As a result of supply chain challenges and some plastic molder bankruptcies in 2020, OEMs are taking a closer look at their molding suppliers to ensure they are doing everything possible to mitigate production risks and control costs.
Our leadership team is focused on ensuring that the company will continue to be a high-performance, low total cost of ownership (TCO) provider. Our goal is to responsibly manage growth for the long term and build relationships with customers who want to work with a strategic, sophisticated supplier for mutual success.
“Our customers feel confident that we are a stable, safe place to bring their business and align with us for the long term,” Schneberger concludes. “We remain committed to strategically reinvesting in the company and finding ways to do things better. We’re never satisfied with the status quo. Plus, we have a sound financial base, so we’re not going anywhere. New Berlin Plastics is going to be around for a very long time.”