Pandemic cleaning growth proves fruitful for Lancaster manufacturer 

Ioannis Pashakis//September 22, 2021

Pandemic cleaning growth proves fruitful for Lancaster manufacturer 

Ioannis Pashakis//September 22, 2021


Stoner Solutions in Lancaster County saw significant growth, such as investing in a new vehicle for its fleet, during the pandemic thanks to the success of its home cleaning products. (PHOTO PROVIDED)

Specialty chemical manufacturer Stoner Solutions was performing market testing on its popular glass cleaning “Invisible Glass” products in a bid to make the item more viable in the competitive household cleaning market. 

When the pandemic struck, the East Drumore Township, Lancaster County company found that opportunity as supply chains were disrupted, and local retailers looked to the company to help them fill shelves. 

Today, Stoner has grown substantially as a result of the pandemic, expanding its workforce, opening a new product line and purchasing new buildings and trucks. The company attributes that growth primarily to the massive influx in the purchase of cleaning products during the pandemic. 

Stoner manufacturers specialty chemicals used for automotive care, critical cleaning and maintenance, household cleaning and B2B mold releases. The company’s product diversity allowed it to flourish at a time where businesses were purchasing less manufacturing supplies but consumers were vastly increasing their cleaning supply purchases, said Jon Crothers, operations improvement coordinator at Stoner. 

It got scary there for a few weeks where it got really quiet, but luckily that was very short lived and the pandemic buying of certain cleaning products immediately shot into overdrive and brought us back quickly,” said Crothers. “When one side of the business is down the other side can rock it and it keeps us afloat.” 

Pennsylvania manufacturers had mixed results during the pandemic. While there are many cases similar to Stoner’s where companies had a golden opportunity to capitalize on products they already offered in fields such as food production, cleaning and sanitizing and health care, just as many had to retool their plants to make products like protective plastic barriers and hand sanitizers. 

Most of the manufacturers that retooled their operations to opportunistic markets during the pandemic have shifted production back to their core products, said Tom Palisin, executive director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association. 

(Stoner) was well positioned in that they already had cleaning products in their portfolio so they were able to quickly adjust to the demand and the opportunities,” said Palisin. “Similar experiences of manufacturers who had existing products that were in demand included manufacturers of vaccine vials, cleaning wipes, cold storage tanks, hospital beds, components for ventilators and other examples.” 

Stoner employs about 85 people in Lancaster County and prides itself on a strategy of methodical, intentional growth, which it attributed to how it was able to stave off lay-offs even in the early days of the pandemic when it had yet to see its home cleaning products fly off shelves. 

Stoner’s methodical growth strategy led it to be cautious of making sudden changes to its best selling product during the pandemic as it tried to shift Invisible Glass from its black bottle packaging to a softer look for household use. 

Hiccups in the supply chain led the company to change the packaging of its black and yellow Invisible Glass bottle to the clear bottles it had been market testing well before it planned to. That slowed supply chain also led area retailers to have open space on the fast-selling household cleaning aisle of stores. 

We had opportunities where customers would call and say ‘we can’t get supplier X to fill our shelves. ‘If you can make this product, we can get it on the shelf for you,” said Crothers. “We had been targeting that area. It’s a competitive shelf and hard to get on there.” 

One issue Stoner faced regarding its supply chain was the loss of its wipes supplier for its Invisible Glass Wipes line. Stoner saw that as an opportunity to buy some of that supplier’s equipment and add wipe production to its portfolio. 

“We added wet wipes manufacturing during the pandemic to make sure that we kept supplying our Invisible Glass Wipes,” said Crothers. “Any kind of household cleaning product was absolutely flying. With some of this growth we had and sustained we added another warehouse building to deal with the space we needed.” 

Along with expanding its production of Invisible Glass, leveraging its relationships to grow its chain of suppliers from one or two primary raw material suppliers to a dozen, Stoner quickly rolled out a new cleaner designed for plastic barriers. 

“When we saw plastic dividers pop up in casinos and restaurants, we quickly rolled out a clear plastic cleaner designed for that plastic which got quick attention from suppliers to help with the dust and static and dirty look of those barriers,” said Crothers. “But a lot of what we wanted to do was make sure that we kept the core business intact.” 

Those manufacturers across the midstate that may not have seen the same overnight success as Stoner Solutions during the early months of the pandemic are more than likely seeing that growth now. Many companies have seen a bounce back in production with robust hiring, high orders and new opportunities for reshoring and new business, said Palisin. 

“There are challenges that manufacturers continue to struggle with including finding talent (both entry and skilled) which limits the ability to take on new orders, increasing prices and wages which impact profitability, and supply chain disruptions which delays orders and strains inventory,” he said. “Overall manufacturing helped lead the US and local economy out of the recession and continues to lead economic growth for the region.”