I had a great chat on Friday with Steve Cavera, National Sales Manager for Yates Industries, the St. Clair Shores, Mich.-based manufacturer of hydraulic and pneumatic cylinders. Cavera described his company’s moves over the past few weeks, as well as his positive outlook for Yates on the other side of this crisis.
FPW: Tell us about what Yates is doing — how is the company responding to these new times we’re in and what are you doing to keep everything moving forward?
SC: Our corporate office is in Michigan. On Monday of [last] week, our governor announced a government mandate that all non-essential business must shut down. Our management team met briefly on it and decided that the best choice would be to close. We drafted a letter and sent it out to our customer base, explaining that due to this mandate, and for the safety and security of our employees, we would close — even though Yates falls under the category of essential businesses.
However, the feedback we received from a lot of companies that first day was overwhelming. So many of our customers, we found out, are essential businesses — and as a result, are relying on Yates as an Essential supplier. Our management team regathered quickly to reassess. We decided to adopt a different strategy to work off site and still create a limited crew internally that allows us to continue to work. Safety and security are definitely the first and foremost concerns of ours.
FPW: So, what does that really mean, in the warehouse, on the production floor, in the factory, in the office?
SC: All office staff is off site, 100%. There isn’t one office member on the premises. That means accounting, customer service, purchasing, and engineering. All of that support center is all working remotely.
FPW: Were you already pretty much set up to do that or were there any growing pains there?
SC: We had major growing pains, as we were not set up to do that at all. Yates has had long term plans to set up our ERP within a cloud base but this is a project that was really put in place for a time down the road.
As far as infrastructure, processes and procedures, all had to be quickly adapted and are actually still being modified. We sent home desktop computers and working stations to our key off-sight employees to be able to remote into our system.
For our factory, we’ve made sure to dot our i’s and cross our t’s as far as policies and procedures from the government — not only the local and state authorities, but the federal government. We have been able to put together a crew for our manufacturing and are currently handling customer inquires and processing jobs.
We are continually urging employees that if they do not feel good or experiencing any symptoms of the Coronavirus that they do not come into work. Keep in mind at this juncture, safety and security is our first and foremost priority. We’re not certainly expecting the entire staff to come in. We don’t want that. We want a limited amount of staff to begin with, so we can separate everybody from a social distancing aspect.
Right now, we’re open for business and expect things to improve each week.
FPW: What about the supply chain end of things?
SC: Ironically enough, our supply chain has not been an issue with us. What we’re finding out is so many in our industry are deemed essential businesses. Right now, the government says you can only work on projects that are tied to essential business. We are requiring companies that we have work in process with to supply us with a letter from their company that states that according to the federal guidelines, they are deemed an essential business.
If they do not supply us that letter, then unfortunately we’re telling them we cannot work on their job. Again, we’re finding that there’s many in our industry that are deemed ‘essential businesses,’ much like our supply chain. For right now, we have not really had any major interruptions with our supply chain. The only thing I think that we could probably comment on our supply chain is a delay, if you will, in certain communications. That’s only because the supply chain’s all working from home just like we are. But as far as receiving raw goods and products, right now we have not encountered any issues — although this is still early in the crisis.
FPW: Are you doing anything to maintain mental health, employee morale? Any things you’re doing there or any suggestions you have for your fellow fluid power manufacturers out there?
SC: Well, I will say that we are having a lot of conference calls. As a result of this, ironically enough, our communications are probably better than ever. We’re talking to people more. We’re talking to people more frequently throughout the day. The only caveat is that we’re not face-to-face with them.
We’re trying to joke a lot. We’re trying to keep a lot of humor, if you will, in some of our conversations, just to keep a lighter spirit. There’s a lot of serious things going on in the world — we’re all well aware of that, but we’re trying to keep our wits amongst ourselves, making jokes about being quarantined . We’re all in a very similar situation where kids are back from school, kids are back from college, and all of a sudden what was an empty house is a full house.
FPW: Do you have any messages that you wish to give to colleagues across the fluid power world, like encouragement or warnings or helpful advice beyond what you just said there?
SC: I think you need to be very organized in your processes right now and have very, very tight communication with your staff daily, multiple times throughout the day, whether you’re checking in just to say, “Hey, how’s everything going? Just checking on you.”
Stay positive. Yates as a company, is fortunate to have a very robust backlog and a very robust business cycle heading into this. Our biggest challenge right now is explaining that to some of our customers that we may have to trickle through this, but we’ll get through it. At the end of this, we believe we’ll be stronger as a result. It’s like that 2007, 2008, 2009 demise, where if you stay positive and you still continue to clip along, you’ll come out of it in a stronger fashion. Yates really believes that we will do that.
Filed Under: Hack the crisis: Engineering through COVID-19, News