As part of our “Hack the Crisis: Engineering through COVID-19” series, Fluid Power World’s VP, Editorial Director Paul J. Heney spoke with Scott Meldeau, the Vice President-Commercial for Norgren about the company’s work in managing through the COVID-19 crisis. Check out the interview below.
[A lightly edited transcript follows …]
FPW: Hi, I’m Paul Heney, Vice President and Editorial Director for Fluid Power World. As part of our COVID-19 Hack the Crisis series, I’m joined today by Scott Meldeau, who is Vice President Commercial Sales and Marketing for Norgren. Thanks for joining us today, Scott.
SM: Oh, thank you for having me.
FPW: Scott, from a general standpoint, can you explain a little bit about what Norgren has done with regards just to keeping the company up and running?
SM: Yes. Our first response to the COVID situation was to keep our employees safe. So what we did is we took non-essential out of the office and had them work from home. The idea was to protect our people in the operational area from any kind of risks. We’ve also been abiding by the guidelines of each state. We’ve also been following strict guidelines on social distancing. We’ve restricted visitors to our sites, pretty much have locked it down.
FPW: What are some of the initiatives that you are taking to protect your workers while maintaining the business, whether that be in the warehouse and the factory floor or in the office?
SM: Yes. We’re implementing a phased return program. So we’re actually bringing back employees at different levels and making sure that social distancing and ensuring that they understand the protocols within each site. We’re also employing … that each employee wears a face mask and coverings. Again, we have dedicated paths. We’ve also created a playbook. So we call it a workplace playbook for each site so the employees have an understanding of what’s expected and the guidelines and the protocols.
FPW: Okay. We hear a lot about issues with the supply chain. Are there any threats that you’re seeing to your supply chain right now?
SM: At this point, no. We’ve done a great job of managing our chain. We actually buy … a majority of our content is local. When I say local, North America. But the only impact we’ve seen is actually delays in delivery from Asia. That’s only been 7 to 10 days. We’re in really good shape from a supply chain standpoint. I think our strategy from a local standpoint has really paid off.
FPW: Scott, for our readers, can you share some maybe tips and tricks that your team has discovered or implemented, just anything from maintaining employee productivity on down?
SM: Yes. We’ve done several different things. So just think about the work bench. Having people stand shoulder to shoulder, what we’ve done is staggered them on each side of the work bench to maintain that safe distance. We’ve also provided safety kits to our sales team. They’re given a safety bag that includes masks, gloves, and PPE protection for their use. We’ve also expanded our shifts. Now rather than have a strong first shift, we’ve actually extended our shifts and have people distributed to multiple shifts.\
FPW: Nice. I’ve seen in the news that Norgren is working with some medical manufacturers to help them supply some components they need to build ventilation equipment. Can you fill us in a little bit on that initiative?
SM: Absolutely. Norgren has been very involved with ventilators for many, many years. We supply different kinds of valves and actuators, fittings, and manifold assembly systems. We’ve seen the demand, obviously, with our company growing more than 10 times. So we’re actually working with the large automotive companies and different other companies to supply them parts of the ventilators.
FPW: Right. I’ve also read a little bit about how Norgren has vastly reduced its production time on some of your components. I think the figure I read was on some of them, you went from six months or more down to eight weeks. Talk a little bit about how you achieved that kind of a feat.
SM: Yes. We haven’t been shy on investment of capital, so that certainly has helped us gain more efficiency and productivity. We also look at continuous evaluating product areas and determining what changes can be made to streamline our process. Short term, with the focus on COVID, we’ve been really working on decreasing our lead times for items that are dramatically impacting customers and their needs for these type of parts on ventilators. We’re still working to streamline the process for customers to the specific items, where applicable.
FPW: Scott, it sounds like you folks are doing just about everything right. Are there any closing messages you wish to give to your colleagues across the manufacturing world with at this time?
SM: Well, one is stay close to the customers, right? It’s the voice of the customer, understanding their needs and be able to react in this difficult time that we’re in. Take advantage of our tools, from the standpoint of training our staff, maintenance on equipment, and really, I hate to say it, take advantage is an awful way to say this. But take the time and do those activities. Changes in our business may outlast the pandemic. So everything from how we design our machinery to how we conduct meetings with our customers is really challenging us to find new ways to be better.
FPW: Scott, I appreciate you taking some time out of your very busy schedule with us today and best of luck moving forward.
SM: Thank you again for the time.
FPW: Thanks Scott.