Business Innovation Series Feature: Chase Plastics


Pre-pandemic, 2020 was off to a strong start for Chase Plastics. In fact, the first quarter of 2020 was the best quarter ever, since the company’s founding in 1992. However, for Chase Plastics, as for many other businesses, the second quarter was a different story. It was a tough quarter, and for only the second time in company history, some layoffs were necessary. Despite the challenges of 2020, by year end Chase Plastics was thriving and growing.

Ranked among the top 10 engineering plastics distributors in North America, Chase Plastics has its home office in southeastern Michigan, and maintains a strong local presence with a primary warehouse and distribution center in South Bend. During the pandemic, as Chase Plastics saw increasing product demand, the South Bend warehouse played a key role in the company’s success.

Meeting the Challenge: Serving Essential Industries, Managing Complex Supply Chains
Although many staff members shifted to remote work during the pandemic, as an essential business, Chase Plastics did not close down operations. Many customer companies include those in consumer, medical and healthcare products needed for lifesaving and life-sustaining work. Customers depended on Chase Plastics for on-time delivery of material and adaptive solutions to support their production of parts and goods for COVID-related applications.

Demand for material was high and manufacturers watched lead times from overseas jump from 8-10 weeks to over 20 weeks. Because Chase Plastics is a stocking distributor, handling more than 26,000 varieties of specialty and commodity thermoplastics and maintaining multiple levels of sourcing for OEM requirements, the company could offer multiple solutions and maintain on-time delivery for their customers.

The South Bend warehouse and distribution center handled picking, blending, packing and shipping operations that allowed Chase Plastics to keep up with demand, deliver on time, support customers, and grow the business while managing complex supply chains. In operation more than 29 years, the South Bend facility remained open throughout the pandemic. A major 80,000-square-foot expansion completed in 2020 provided additional storage for more than 10 million pounds of material along with five new loading docks, equipment upgrades, a new blender and greater repacking capacity.

Rewards of Creativity and Resilience
Beyond delivery of product, customers turned to Chase Plastics for technical support and knowledgeable support in new product development for help in the selection of materials to achieve specific attributes in finished products. During the pandemic, the creativity and resourcefulness of the team were put to the test. They worked hard to meet the rapidly changing needs of customers in essential industries, for instance, helping develop products that could meet the demands of cleaning and sanitization standards and other design criteria. They pivoted and launched a Chase the Knowledge webinar series to provide technical education to their customers both via live video and through recordings of past topics. A technical blog was also launched in April of this year to provide yet another online resource.

One of the company’s greatest successes in 2020, says Vice President Adam Paulson, is knowing that the sales and engineering teams at Chase Plastics contributed to the development of nearly 1000 COVID-related product applications from face shields to respirator parts to testing kits and the acrylic dividers that have appeared everywhere. The company also put their own on-site 3D printing capabilities to work, making and donating mask adjustment straps for use in nearby medical facilities.

Sales, engineering, and other teams at Chase Plastics worked hard to be flexible partners for their customers while concentrating on the company’s core values which all surround customer satisfaction. Through the pandemic Chase Plastics learned how much their customers valued their flexibility and reliability as a supplier. They showed up to help customers face demanding circumstances with knowledge, innovation, and service and were rewarded with increased demand and sales growth.

Moving Forward
Quarter three brought a rebound and quarter four continued strong, into a “check mark” recovery. By the end of the year, staffing levels had not only returned to but also surpassed pre-COVID levels, and the company has 20 current job openings today, plus additional openings in the South Bend facility. In 2021, sales are up 35% with the expectation to finish the year at that level or even higher.

The secret of their success? Paulson says that the company’s outstanding team is its number one asset, followed by the firmly held values the organization shares. Strong supporters of the region, Chase Plastics established the warehouse in South Bend because of its strategic location and easy access to points throughout the Midwest. Today, more than ever, they appreciate the outstanding teamwork of the people who work in this center. Looking toward the future, Chase Plastics is bullish on the year and bullish on people of the South Bend – Elkhart region.


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