Diversifying for Growth

Benchmark Foam
Written by Pauline Muller

At a time when the world is searching for eco-friendly plastic solutions, Benchmark Foam’s recyclable, lightweight, expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam solutions serve several large industries with top-quality products. Based in Watertown, South Dakota, the company prides itself on providing solutions to various markets with its diverse product offering.

Expanded polystyrene can be shaped into almost anything from packaging to design accents and insulation in construction. This gives Benchmark Foam an edge with an impressive choice of products from high-end construction innovations to dock floats, pitching mounds, cake forms, and much more.

Along with a diverse range of proprietary products, Benchmark Foam is known for its phenomenal quality. Clients come from across the United States and Canada for its foam-core signs. Due to the popularity, the company established an independent division, Signs By Benchmark, in 2007 to support the growth.

For anyone who has seen the Dunkin’ in Roswell, New Mexico, the coffee and doughnut shop’s green alien sign holder is sure to have made an impression. As unique as the city itself, the 26-foot extraterrestrial made from EPS is the result of months of engineering by Benchmark Foam’s experts.

“The planning that took place just to assemble it on top of the actual finishing work was outstanding. The team took a chance on this project, and it paid off for everyone involved, as the finished product is now a local landmark for selfie-enthusiasts,” says Benchmark Foam’s President Robert Reiter. This, just one of the company’s recent achievements, landed it the top project for 2019 by Sign Builder Illustrated magazine.

Also sold throughout North America is its patented Thermo-Snap, a high density, in-floor heat insulation that holds pex tubing in situ. The product saves labor, materials and time. Other products that contribute to the company’s growth are its protective packaging and construction grade insulation for commercial, residential and industrial buildings. Another proprietary product, eps360®, is made entirely from recycled expanded polystyrene.

“White EPS foam can be recycled, and while we serve as a regional recycling center, we encourage other molders across the country to implement a recycling program in their respective facilities to support EPS recycling nationwide,” says Marketing Manager Jacquie Devine. The company was recognized with the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ award for its environmentally conscious operations in 2005.

After more than 32 years in the industry, Benchmark Foam prides itself on the diverse product offering that all begins with a granular raw material and transforms into a variety of shapes and sizes to solve customer problems. The material is safe, versatile, cost-effective, durable and eco-friendly as recycling initiatives can keep it out of landfills. EPS also saves enormous amounts of energy through its powerful insulation properties and helps to create healthy living environments by reducing mildew occurrence in buildings.

Along with providing superior quality, Benchmark Foam aims to contribute to its clients’ bottom lines as it builds relationships. To ensure that the customer’s needs are met, the company goes to great lengths to research requirements and challenges. Other services it offers include training and support for its clients’ end users.

Benchmark Foam also sets itself apart from the competition with its shipping strategy, including an on-time delivery guarantee that is unique to the industry. Complete with its own fleet of trucks, Benchmark Foam delivers irrespective of the size of the order.

In addition, the company regularly invests in the latest technology. Its most recent acquisition is an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to support future growth with precise reporting and efficiency gains.

Benchmark Foam has also collaborated with three North American companies to create Stronghold ICF, a maker of insulated concrete forms (ICF). “Our block has features and benefits that are new to the industry. We’re unique in that our product was created from people that have used many, if not all, of the other blocks and aims to remedy points of frustration of the other blocks,” says Reiter.

The company invested time and resources for months to create the ultimate insulated concrete form to avoid the frustrations of the standard forms available in the construction market today. “Stronghold believes that its customers deserve a better ICF, and now we can offer one to them,” Reiter adds. Construction professionals were ready for a product that takes the concern out of concrete forms, and the market’s positive response has been equivalent to a standing ovation.

Another addition is a new range of equipment that has allowed it to expand its packaging offerings. For low-to-mid-volume shipping, its Foam-In-Place creates custom packaging without a high cost. This product is created by mixing two liquid foam solutions inside a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bag or film. The resulting foam, while contained within the film, expands to fill the shipping space, perfectly protecting the item being sent.

The company has a long history of new ideas. It began in 1977 as Energy Industries. Change came in 1988 when a group of forward-thinking employees decided to take over the company, developing a smart diversification policy when Benchmark Foam was born. In 2021, the company is still under the ownership of the families who bought in the eighties.

Its employees are as much a part of the Benchmark family as the owners themselves, and the company is proud to announce that it did not lay off any of its almost one hundred staff members during the recent pandemic. “We have a great mixture of tenured staff and new employees in our company. We have found that finding the right mix of personalities is very important to maintaining the family culture that is valued by our entire team,” says Reiter.

The company’s leadership team goes the extra mile to ensure that its people remain motivated and passionate, and showing appreciation for them is a large part of this. “Ensuring people are in positions to be successful and supporting growth opportunities have been instrumental for us,” Reiter says. The company holds quarterly team-building experiences that allow people to relax together and have a laugh. “We’ve also found that having the right communication at the proper intervals makes a huge difference to keep morale up and the team motivated.”

Benchmark Foam contributes to several good causes annually, including driving recycling initiatives in local communities. Some of the organizations that benefit from its generosity include Habitat for Humanity – which awarded it the ‘Partner of the Year’ award in 2007 – United Way, and Toys for Tots. Employees are known for pulling together to raise funds for special causes, further binding the group together.

The company’s president sees the EPS industry growing in the future, especially when it comes to providing the packaging and construction industries with more solutions. Looking at the year ahead, the company is working to continue its 2020 trend of gaining more diverse clients. “Customer service will always be a focus for us. We want to be the solution providers to our customers,” Reiter says. With its emphasis on maintaining its family atmosphere, quality, and diversification, Benchmark Foam has a solid plan for the year ahead.



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