Jay Baker didn’t simply coast during the pandemic after his company, Jamestown Plastics, was deemed an essential manufacturer because it makes packaging for medical devices, among many other things.
Instead, the CEO leaned into the disruption in Jamestown’s business by accelerating development of some of its own intellectual property and carving out new markets with new customers that have been bringing incremental revenues to the 35-year-old company based in Brocton, New York.
At the same time, early in the pandemic Jamestown was able to satisfy the requests of local government officials in western New York and quickly design and build face shields that they wanted for protection of health-care workers as the area faced shortages of personal protective equipment in the first several weeks of the pandemic.
“One of the goals I’ve had my entire life in the world of thermoform plastics was to have our own baby, have creations that we could perfect with IP,” Baker told Chief Executive. “We’re really good at solving problems for people, and we wanted to be able to solve problems that were universal and we’re we’d reap the benefits of our own ingenuity and creativity. We’ve gotten to that point with a series of inventions.”
For instance, this fall, Jamestown has unveiled “DoomBox” mouse traps, a device that Baker called “the world’s first child-resistant, certified mousetrap. “There’s a snap-trap inside a clamshell container I invented, and it keeps pets and kids and dogs” away from the victimized prey – “and contains the mess.” Jamestown rolled out the DoomBox to about 400 stores including Mid-States Group stores in the Midwest.
“This is the first time we’re in the retail space with our own product, a completely new environment for us,” Baker said. “For a manufacturer to go into a retail space there is a whole skill set and terminology and a way things are done that you have to learn.”
DoomBox followed Jamestown’s success six years ago in inventing and introducing its Clamtainer line of clamshell plastic packaging that features a re-closable locking device Baker said is “a vast improvement on closing mechanisms. Basically what I invented was a locking mechanism that works on a pin and a hole in the vertical sidewall of the clamshell. When you close it, the pin deflects the wall inward and it snaps into the hole that’s in the vertical part of the sidewall.”
This innovation, he said, has gotten Jamestown into new markets including packaging of medical products and ammunition.
Jamestown’s problem-solving capabilities came in handy last spring when local officials approached the company asking for help in solving their PPE shortage for dealing with the pandemic, specifically with face shields.
“I told our guys that we needed to jump into this request,” Baker said. “We figured we could make our own versions of what was out there already. But if we put effort into it with a clean-sheet approach and use some innovation, we could improve on things and have a product that would still be here at the end of Covid, because it’s better.”
Jamestown’s design team quickly talked with some medical professionals for feedback on face-shied design, brainstormed for a few hours, and came up with a device that provides coverage under the chin and back to the ears, a big improvement over conventional models.
“Because we’re 100-percent self-sufficient, doing 100 percent of our design and engineering, with our tooling built in-house, we can go from an idea to a physical product in less than 30 hours,” Baker said. “We can machine a thermoforming tool faster than we could 3D-print [prototypes] in many cases, and then we have actual parts.”
Jamestown not only satisfied the needs of local officials but also donated more than 5,000 face shields to hospitals in New York City, a box of 100 to each of more than 50 institutions. Also, the company has made a brand out of the device called TrueHero Extreme Coverage face shields – “the heroes are the people wearing these things on the front lines,” Baker pointed out – and has come up with smaller versions of its original as well as specific versions for customers who want to put the device on with a baseball cap or a hard hat.