BROOKINGS, S.D. • Falcon Plastics, which has four manufacturing facilities in the US – two in South Dakota and one each in Oregon and Tennessee – and a partnership facility in Suzhou, China, produces plastics for a diverse group of industries.

The pandemic, as it has done with businesses across the country, has brought some challenges to the manufacturing company but they’ve been challenges that have been faced with integrity and vision.

“Because our markets and customers are so diverse we have seen both increases and decreases in demand depending on the product,” according to Karrisa Kopecky, marketing manager located in Brookings, S.D. “Generally, our business is down slightly. Some facilities have been severely impacted by slowing orders. All of our facilities have had to make changes to protect our team and keep them safe so we can continue to run production around the clock.”

She said all of the company’s facilities have been designated "critical and essential,” and so the pandemic “never completely shut us down.”

That’s good news on all fronts, including the staffing front. Falcon is a company that values its employees, many who have been with the company for decades.

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“Across all facilities, we employ approximately 365 team members – over 22% of our workforce has been with Falcon Plastics for over 20 years, and 46% have been with us for over 10 years. We are very proud of our team and their dedication to the Falcon mission.”

Kopecky and Jay Bender, company president, answered a few additional questions about the business, giving insight and perspective about their sector of the manufacturing industry:

Describe a little about what Falcon Plastics manufactures

At Falcon Plastics, we strive to remain a much-diversified market mix. Our key markets are construction and industrial, medical, sporting goods, electronics, automotive, office products, agriculture, and transportation.

What makes Falcon stand out from the crowd?

We deliver high-quality products, on time, at competitive prices. Many suppliers claim this but we prove it every day. There are several things that really make us stand-out against our competitors: We have multiple facilities across the US; we have a facility in Suzhou, China; we are family-owned and operated, third generation; we are very diversified in our customer base and the materials and products we produce; we work hard to build long-term relationships. Most of our larger clients have been with us for more than 20 years and many for more than 40 years.

Ethics and integrity matter here and we look for clients who want that same level of trust and mutual benefit from our relationship.

In what ways has the pandemic affected the business?

Because our markets and customers are so diverse we have seen both increases and decreases in demand, depending on the product. Generally, our business is down slightly. Some facilities have been severely impacted by slowing orders. All of our facilities have had to make changes to protect our team and keep them safe so we can continue to run production around the clock. All of our facilities are designated “critical and essential,” the pandemic never completely shut us down. Working from home when possible, and following CDC guidelines: not coming into work if you don't feel well, cleaning, hand sanitizing, social distancing, and the use of face masks when distancing is not possible are some of the strategies we have used to keep employees safe, healthy, and our operations running.

How has Falcon Plastic met those challenges?

All of our team members have really stepped-up to meet the challenges the pandemic has brought us. Initially, our leadership met daily, we reached out to many industry associations and our networks to learn best practices. We eliminated travel, used video conferencing, kept non-essential people out of our facilities, and educated our workforce. Everyone really pulled together and took the situation seriously. It has been very tough and we did have to do some furloughs and layoffs. Losing personnel is very difficult but we found it necessary to ensure the health and stability of the company. It is unfortunate that we needed to make some tough decisions to adjust to the new reality we found ourselves in, but we are very optimistic about our future.

Falcon Plastic manufactures plastics for a number of industries: agriculture, automotive, construction, industrial, medical and transportation, to name a few.
Falcon Plastic manufactures plastics for a number of industries: agriculture, automotive, construction, industrial, medical and transportation, to name a few. Image: Courtesy of Falcon Plastics

What trends are you seeing in the industry right now?

Automotive is a big player in our industry, so everyone is closely watching what is happening in this sector, as it could define the future, at least in the near term. About 13% of our business is in the automotive sector.

Has the pandemic created any new trends?

The pandemic has been very disruptive to our industry as a whole. It is creating a lot of stress on certain companies. We are starting to see some of our competitors fail, re-organize, or be acquired. There is also a lot more interest in reshoring supplies and components by our customers. The entire supply chain is being re-evaluated with an effort to minimize risks. We believe this is a great opportunity for strong suppliers like Falcon Plastics to be positioned to win more business. However, it is a very competitive market out there, so we know we will need to work very hard to win new work.

What role does technology play in the industry?

Technology is a major force in our industry. The equipment, tooling, materials, and processes are all highly technical in nature. That means we need a lot of highly trained technicians, engineers, and leaders to be successful. We continue to use automation, process monitoring, and camera technology to produce extremely high-quality products while minimizing our costs.

What do you foresee as the future of the industry in the region?

We feel strongly that manufacturing is important to the upper Midwest and to the entire country. US manufacturing has the opportunity to see great growth. The pandemic has really shown us how important manufacturing is to our country and to our future. Manufacturing offers great careers, but it also helps with the supplies and goods needed in today’s world. The shortage of PPE and other critical supplies were exposed and we hope the leaders in this country will push to make sure that doesn't happen in the future.

Andrew Weeks may be reached at aweeks@prairiebusinessmagazine.com or 701-780-1276