Operating a small business always has plenty of challenges: acquiring customers and meeting their requirements, running an efficient operation, and producing profits in order to survive and to grow. Over the last year, however, the global pandemic has multiplied the challenges for Shamrock Plastics, Inc., a plastics thermoformer located in Peoria.
Chief among these challenges have been staffing the operation amidst huge swings in the business and employment climate, pandemic lockdowns and re-openings, and the continuation of large price increases and longer lead times for raw materials, thanks to the global inflation in commodities from the post-lockdown demand.
In our 53 years of serving customers large and small, Shamrock has never experienced these economic factors to this degree. We have great praise for our long-tenured management and staff for persevering through this difficult time and continuing to meet our customers’ needs.
When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, Shamrock was considered an “essential manufacturing business,” and therefore continued its production of plastic parts for Caterpillar and other customers. More stringent safety and health precautions became the new norm. Business slowed considerably throughout the year, and sales reps were unable to visit prospects.
Then, just as the world was returning to normal, two significant wind gusts arrived in full force: acquiring the right people, and getting hit with input price increases and delays. Shamrock uses local temporary agencies in addition to hiring directly. This is a tight employment market, as potential employees consider many different options while some receive temporary government pandemic assistance. Raising entry-level wages has been one key strategy for the company.
Solving for Curveballs
Renewed global demand for all products has pushed material prices to historic highs over the last several months. This has caused Shamrock to get creative in its efforts to meet its own needs as well as those of its customers. “Although these new conditions have thrown many curveballs our way, I am pleased that we continue to evaluate our input costs, prices and production schedules and find acceptable solutions for our customers,” notes Gary Potter, Shamrock vice president.
How long will these challenges persist for businesses small and large? When will things get “back to normal”… or will they? While enjoying the revenue rebound, Shamrock will remain nimble in its operations and be alert for whatever the remainder of 2021 brings. PM
Tom Westphal is president of Shamrock Plastics, Inc.