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To help a small-town community in California, METALfx and Adventist Health Howard Memorial Hospital joined forces during the COVID-19 pandemic​​.Getty Images
Life in Willitz, California is much like life in any remote small town in the United States.Anyone who is not a family member is almost like a family member, because you probably know them very well.
Willits is a small town of about 5,000 people located in the center of Mendocino County, about two hours’ drive north of San Francisco.It has most of the necessities for your life, but if you need to go to Costco, you will have to travel 20 miles south along U.S. Highway 101 to Ukiah, a large city with a population of 16,000.
METALfx is a fab with 176 employees, and Adventist Health Howard Memorial Hospital are the two largest employers in the region.During the COVID-19 pandemic, they also played an important role in helping the community and helping each other.
METALfx was founded in 1976. In the roller coaster of market dynamics, many fabs with similar tenures are the same.In the early 1990s, the company achieved annual revenue of 60 million U.S. dollars and employed approximately 400 employees.However, at about the same time, when a major customer decided to move its manufacturing operations overseas, the company shrank and many employees lost their jobs.The entire department was destroyed.To some extent, the company had to start again.
For many years, METALfx has been working hard to avoid this situation.Now, the company’s golden rule is that no single customer can account for more than 15% of the company’s total revenue.The display in the conference room clearly shows this, which identifies the company’s top 10 customers.METALfx employees not only know who they are working for, but also know that the future of the company is not determined by one or two giants.
The manufacturer provides its customers with engineering, processing and manufacturing services, including laser cutting, stamping, stamping, bending machine bending, and gas metal arc and gas tungsten arc welding.It also provides assembly services, such as matching and sub-assembly construction.METALfx business development and marketing director Connie Bates said that the paint and powder coating line is equipped with a multi-stage pretreatment line and has also proven to be popular with customers looking for a one-stop shop to provide molded and finished parts.
Bates said these services and other value-added products, such as on-time delivery and manufacturing job design, have helped build the manufacturer’s customer portfolio in recent years.The company achieved an annual growth rate of 13% in 2018 and 2019.
The growth is accompanied by many long-term customers, some of which date back 25 years, and some new customers.METALfx acquired a major customer in the transportation sector a few months ago, and it has since grown to become one of its largest customers.
“We have 55 new parts falling on us in a month,” Bates said.METALfx stumbled a little while trying to handle all the new jobs, but the customer expected some delays in response, acknowledging that it invested a lot of work in the fab at a time, Bates added.
In the early spring of 2020, the manufacturer installed a new Bystronic BySmart 6 kW fiber laser cutting machine, which is connected to the automatic storage and retrieval tower and the ByTrans Cross material handling system to keep up with the high processing speed of the fiber laser. Bates said that the new The laser will help the company meet customers’ shorter delivery times, cut five times faster than a 4 kW CO2 laser cutting machine, and produce parts with cleaner edges.(Fiber lasers will eventually replace two of the company’s three CO2 laser cutting machines. One will be reserved for prototype/quick turnaround units.) The limited energy use of laser cutting machines is also very suitable for the company, she added, because of the region Pacific Gas & Energy’s electricity supplier is very interested in reducing grid demand, especially in the event of natural disasters (such as forest fires near last year).
METALfx management distributed COVID-19 life-saving kits to employees in May to thank them for going to work, as a way to support local businesses.In each COVID-19 survival kit, the recipients found masks, cleaning cloths and gift certificates from local restaurants.
METALfx has gained a lot of positive momentum at the beginning of this year, with an increase of approximately 12% compared to the same period in 2019.But with the crisis in response to COVID-19.The business will not be the same, but it will not stop.
As California begins to respond to the March coronavirus outbreak, METALfx is trying to figure out how it will proceed.Once talking about shelter-in-place orders in Northern California counties, one of METALfx’s top customers contacted it to say that the manufacturer is critical to its business.The customer is a manufacturer of medical testing equipment, some of its products are used to fight the coronavirus.Bates added that in the next few days, another customer contacted the store and said that their own products were also important.METALfx will not be closed during this pandemic.
“We are trying to figure out what we should do,” said Henry Moss, president of METALfx.”I looked on Amazon and couldn’t find a book on how to run a company during the pandemic. I haven’t written it yet.”
In order to make the right decision to protect employees and enable the company to fulfill its supply chain obligations, Moss contacted the nearby Adventist Health Howard Memorial.(The hospital was built in 1927 with the financial help of Charles S. Howard, a famous car dealer at the time and the ultimate owner of the famous racing horse Seabiscuit. The foundation is based on Howard’s son Named after Frank R. Howard (Frank R. Howard), who died in a car accident.) The hospital responded quickly. The METALfx management met with two medical leaders of the hospital to understand what measures they were taking to ensure themselves during this period Safety and health of employees.
Employees check their body temperature before entering the facility to see if they might have a fever.They are also asked every day if they are showing any symptoms related to the coronavirus.Social distancing measures are in place.In addition, if employees are infected with the coronavirus, their lives may be threatened, and employees who meet their medical conditions are also instructed to stay at home.Moss said that most protection measures were taken weeks before the official guidance provided by federal and state authorities.
With school buildings closed and teaching turned to a virtual world, parents suddenly had to worry about childcare during the day.Bates said the company provides shift services for employees who need to be home during the day during the virtual school.
To please any lean manufacturing practitioner, METALfx applies visual indicator tools to its COVID-19 prevention plan.When employees pass the temperature checkpoint and enter the question and answer phase, they will receive a colored round sticker with an easy-to-see badge on it.If it is a blue sticker day and the employee checks that there is no fever and symptoms, he or she will get a blue sticker.
“If the weather is fine and the manager sees someone with a yellow sticker, then the manager needs to pick up that person,” Bates said.
Around this time, METALfx will have the opportunity to give back to their colleagues in the hospital.With the spread of the coronavirus and people realizing that front-line medical staff lack proper personal protective equipment (PPE), METALfx management realized that they have a sufficient inventory of N95 masks, which are mainly used by personnel responsible for parts deburring.Bates said they decided to contact hospital administrators to provide them with N95 masks.The hospital welcomed PPE and provided metal manufacturers with some stocks of surgical masks, which are disposable blue and white masks that are now common in indoor environments.
Henry Moss, President of METALfx, raised two toilet paper rolls, and a team helped assemble 170 COVID-19 survival kits.
METALfx also learned about the opportunity to help the Frank R. Howard Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the stability and development of hospitals and serving the Willits community.The foundation is coordinating the distribution of thousands of cloth masks made by local tailors and enthusiasts to the community.However, these masks do not provide a close-fitting metal nasal mask around the nose, making it easier to keep the mask in place and making it more effective as a barrier to prevent the sharing of coronavirus droplets or inhalation of them.
The personnel involved in the mask distribution work tried to manually form these metal nasal masks, but apparently this was not very effective.Moss said that someone recommended METALfx as a resource to find a better way to make these small metal pieces, so a team was called to study it.It turns out that the company has a stamping tool that can produce an oval shape that is almost exactly the same as the desired shape, and it has aluminum on hand to make a nose bridge.With the help of one of the Amada Vipros turret punch presses, METALfx produced 9,000 nose bridges in one afternoon.
“You can go to any store in town now, and anyone who wants them can buy them,” Moss said.
Therefore, as all this goes on, METALfx is still producing parts for its main customers.Bates said that due to media coverage of the pandemic and the general lack of understanding of the virus and its effects, people are a little anxious about their work during this time.
Then came the loss of toilet paper, which wiped out most store shelves.”The whole thing broke me down,” Moss said.
The company verified with its industrial product suppliers that it can still deliver toilet paper.Therefore, Moss thought it might be fun to share the highly sought-after paper products with hard-working teammates.
But also at this time, people are pushing local Willits residents to support businesses in the town.After the asylum-in-place order takes effect, people no longer spend money in local shops and restaurants.
On May 1, Mendocino County issued a public order requiring residents to wear masks during certain public interactions.
All these factors have prompted the METALfx management team to create a COVID-19 survival kit for its employees.It contains two rolls of toilet paper; three masks (an N95 mask, a cloth mask, and a double cloth mask that can hold a filter); and a gift certificate for the Willett restaurant.
“It’s all for lightheartedness,” Moss said.”When we distributed the kits, we couldn’t hold large meetings, so we walked around and distributed these things. When I took out the toilet paper from each set, everyone laughed and my mood was a lot lighter.”
No one knows what will happen in the future, but most manufacturers are preparing for customers to resume production and increase parts orders.METALfx is no exception.
Moss said that measures such as restructuring the assembly department, doubling the capacity of the powder coating line, and adding new laser cutting machines put it in a favorable position to deal with the rebound in the manufacturing industry.Future initiatives to resolve deburring bottlenecks and rearrange other equipment to allow more organized parts flow will also help.
“We have caught up and pushed a large backlog of work,” Moss said.”We are ready to welcome new opportunities.”
This small-town company has big plans for the future.This is good news for METALfx employees and Willits citizens.
Dan Davis is the editor-in-chief of The FABRICATOR, the industry’s most widely circulated metal manufacturing and forming magazine, and its sister publications STAMPING Journal, The Tube & Pipe Journal, and The Welder.He has been working on these publications since April 2002.
For more than 20 years, he has written articles on American manufacturing trends and issues.Before joining The FABRICATOR, he was involved in home appliance manufacturing, finishing industry, manufacturing and commercial software development.As a trade journal editor, he has traveled extensively in the United States and Europe, visiting manufacturing facilities and participating in the most important manufacturing events in the world.
He was a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in journalism in 1990.He lives in Crystal Lake, Illinois with his wife and two children.
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Post time: Dec-22-2021