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Toner Plastics Pivots to Produce for Pandemic Needs

  • On February 19, 2021

Senator Eric Lesser and Representative Brian Ashe toured Toner Plastics in East Longmeadow.

By Staasi Heropoulos

EAST LONGMEADOW — The pandemic is setting the tone for many companies like Toner Plastics, where business has doubled as it took steps to respond to the manufacturing needs to fight the coronavirus. “COVID-19 drove business for us last year,” says company president Jack Warren. “That kept us very busy.”When children were stuck at home with little to do, parents turned to plastic crafting beads to keep them busy. When supplies needed to make N95 masks for front line workers got hung up in China, Toner Plastics supplied elastics straps for the lifesaving Personal Protective Equipment. The company has even made swabs required for COVID testing.

Beads, elastics and swabs — three reasons Toner Plastics’ business doubled in 2020 and is driving hard into 2021. The plastics manufacturing technology company’s key to success was being nimble while retooling its machines and workforce. “We had to figure out very quickly how we could double our production of the elastic straps our customers use to make N95 masks,” says Warren. Toner Plastics’ pipeline to Walmart flowed steadily as well last year. When Walmart’s customers tried to find crafts for their kids, they were met with largely empty shelves. “Competitive products were not on the shelves, but our products were because we’re a made in the USA supplier,” explains Warren. “Our kids craft products really exploded this year, so we had to work very hard to keep our customers in stock while products made in China were stuck there.” Toner also saw opportunity in the textile business and didn’t mask its interest in making face coverings. Last year Toner Plastics established Toner Textiles, a brand-new business unit. The division makes protective face masks in three themes: patriotic; back to school; and animal. The masks became an instant hit at Walmart, according to Toner’s president.

“That was a tremendous business for us. It was a completely new thing,” says Warren. “They asked for our help to bring a mask to them because they couldn’t get masks quickly enough out of China, so we were able deliver.” Toner Plastics was founded in 1989 with one shop and one employee. The company has grown exponentially since then, with three manufacturing plants and 180 employees today. The business has grown 500% in the last five years through mergers, acquisitions, and increased sales of its product portfolio, according to Warren. Beyond its pandemic related portfolio, Toner also makes a range of products, relying on its injection molding, extrusion, tooling and mold transfer and toll manufacturing capabilities. The company never shut down during pandemic, relying on employees to keep the business going while following state and federal safety guidelines for safety. “Our supervisory and management teams were excellent,” Warren says. “They worked weekends, led by example and our employees responded. Our people felt like we had a purpose. We couldn’t let our customers down.”

It’s anyone’s guess how long COVID will continue driving some businesses under while boosting sales for others. For now, Toner Plastics is committed to helping meet needs that have emerged amid the pandemic. “We know what we’re doing is important,” says Warren. “We don’t know what’s around the corner, but it will be another evolution in the history of Toner Plastics.”

Click here for the original news release from MassLive written by Staasi Heropoulos