How Plexiglas Sneeze Guard Manufacturing Saved a Michigan Business


Reopening the economy can mean a lot more plexiglass.

These clear partitions, which lined checkouts in essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies during the coronavirus outbreak, could be a post-pandemic standard.

Home orders have already started to rise across the country, with non-essential businesses like nail and hair salons and large retailers like Nordstrom and Macy’s reopening with so-called sneeze guards installed in stores. registers.

“Most of our orders that come in every day are from your family business, medical practices, retail environments, and some big brand restaurant groups as well,” said Jim Whitehead, owner of a small business. Michigan company that moved production in April. sell plexiglass partitions.

Global plexiglass production increased significantly in March and April compared to February, according to ICIS, a commodities intelligence service. For some manufacturers, production was up 300% from February.

Despite the increase in protective shields, manufacturers of plexiglass and acrylic sheets – known as poly methyl methacrylate or PMMA in the industry – are not immune to the impact of the coronavirus on the economy. Prices are currently around their two-year low, around 40% below May 2018 levels. This is largely due to the majority of its demand coming from the construction and automotive industries, which have been largely closed due to the pandemic.

“They continue to operate at very low rates,” said Katherine Sales of CIHI, who also doesn’t expect prices to rebound quickly. However, she said if new demand continues after the auto and construction sectors recover, it could be “the catalyst needed for PMMA prices to rebound.”

Whitehead, founder and CEO of iM Branded, said he was happy his company stepped in early when purchasing the raw materials. Having already experienced an acrylic stockout, he predicts a supply problem as more of the country reopens and demand for clear partitions increases.

“We believe that not only acrylic partitions, but all social distancing products will be there at least for the foreseeable time,” Whitehead said.

A worker at the iM Branded plant in Michigan.

Source: iM brand

iM Branded, which designs murals and signage for new car dealers, was ruled non-essential under the Michigan executive order, forcing the company to cease operations in March. Whitehead has put 130 employees on leave and feared it would not reopen as other clients linked to new construction projects pulled out of the development.

Eager to get back to work, Whitehead said he and his team found a way to be seen as essential, adding the ability to cut and design Plexiglas “sneeze guards” and social distancing signage.

“The goal here is to get back to full operations, get our people back to work… and hopefully get through this thing under conditions where we can be viable on the other side,” Whitehead said.

A majority of iM Branded’s staff were back in the office earlier this month, filling up to 100 orders a day. “The demand is growing, it’s strong… as the United States starts to open up, it’s going to continue to grow,” Whitehead said.


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