Like everyone else, tire and rubber companies and their employees face uncertainty as the world seeks effective responses to the coronavirus.
It's now been months since the health crisis emerged from Wuhan, China, first gripping a large swath of that country before moving overseas and creating what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said is the likelihood of a pandemic. The risk is still low in the U.S., despite reports of cases in several states and deaths now occurring on domestic soil.
Doing business in this atmosphere is fraught with volatility as managers try to strike a balance between being prudent and cautious. Many in the U.S. still live far from the limited domestic outbreaks, but health experts warn the virus is going to spread.
To what extent, no one knows at this point.
At Triangle Tire USA in Franklin, Tenn., CEO Manny Cicero said his company's four plants in China are back up and running after a three-week shutdown earlier this year. The first week was planned for the Chinese New Year, followed by two additional weeks of forced closure due to the virus outbreak.
Each shutdown put a crimp on supply.
"There is an effect. First you have Chinese New Year followed by the coronavirus outbreak," he said. "At the very least, three weeks of product was taken out of the industry."
The company's manufacturing sites are in Weihai, far from Wuhan, about the distance between Dallas and Boston, Cicero said. "Triangle was fairly lucky. Our plant is back up. We're building and we're shipping. I consider ourselves one of the fortunate ones."
Even for a company like Triangle in the U.S., getting a clear, big picture out of China can be difficult.
Cicero said his U.S.-based sales staff has received a handful of inquiries from competitors' customers asking about supply in light of the global uncertainty.
"It's out there. There's a thread out there of concern about supply," he said. "It's more or less just that there may be some shortages out there. Yes, we are in pretty good shape. You order, we'll ship."