Local plastics manufacturer GOEX has been riding a wave of increased demand that company officials say has them needing more capacity for more train cars of production materials at once.
Josh Gray, GOEX president, said the Janesville-based plastic extrusion company has seen a huge increase during the COVID-19 pandemic in plastic products it produces for restaurant to-go food packaging.
Now, as the U.S. seems poised for some recovery from the pandemic, one major linchpin sector that GOEX serves—medical device packaging—could be back on an upswing thanks to a predicted resurgence of elective surgeries.
It’s why it might be good timing for an expansion set to start this summer to GOEX’s rail infrastructure at its manufacturing plant off Highway 14 on the north side.
The company plans a $330,000 expansion that will bring an additional 600 linear feet of rail line to the company’s existing rail spur alongside the plant.
The city of Janesville awarded a construction bid last week as the local agent of a state Department of Transportation grant for the project. The grant will reimburse half of GOEX’s costs for the rail expansion.
Gray called the purpose for the rail spur expansion “elementary.” He said as the company’s production output over the last year has grown and become more varied, so has GOEX’s need to bring in by rail more and different types of plastic pellets—the main ingredient in plastic products GOEX extrudes.
And it needs more space to move around train cars to juggle different jobs at the plant.
“We just need more parking spots from which to pull,” Gray said. “Because we’re pulling so many different products off the rail, it helps with the flexibility in the inventory control with being able to put different materials and in a different sequence and on two different tracks.”
GOEX will get those extra parking spots via a grant process that has rolled out over the past several months, and the project should roll ahead this year.
Gray said the project will take about two weeks to complete, although it likely won’t roll out until later this summer because of manufacturing lead times on components used to build out the extra spur.
Gray said the upgrade will help the plant gear up for a transition—or, at the very least, a boost—in production.
For months during the pandemic, Gray said, one of the hottest tickets at GOEX has been extruded plastic that is geared for use in restaurant industry food packaging. The boom in those products goes hand in hand with a tectonic shift in American dining habits toward home cooking along with curbside pickup and carryout at restaurants.
Gray said it’s not clear how fast Americans might shift back to dining in as the country bounces back from the pandemic, but he said analysts believe there could be a resurgence in elective surgeries and other procedures, which saw a dramatic slowdown during the pandemic.
Pent-up demand for surgeries could in turn produce an increase in demand for plastics GOEX sells for medical packaging, Gray indicated.