May 1, 2020 – Willits, CA – On Monday, March 16, METALfx received an urgent communication from one of their top customers, a bio-medical manufacturer of products used in the detection and research of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. In this letter, METALfx was told they were a supplier of certain components that are critical to the customers’ COVID-related products, and was asked to maintain operations to produce and ship these items during this critical period of time. This was just the first of several letters to METALfx from customers.
“We knew early on that the parts we manufacture were essential, not just for our customers in the telecommunication and federal infrastructure fields working to make sure people across the nation could continue day-to-day, but even more importantly, for our customers in the medical fields who are directly involved in fighting the coronavirus.” Explained Henry Moss, President of METALfx.
Moss shared that the companies and products that METALfx directly supports are involved in the COVID-19 fight through research, diagnostic testing, detection, vaccines and cures, biotechnology, and surgical equipment. While some customers are ramping up production on existing products to meet demand in this crucial time period, others are developing new technology to detect and treat the virus.
“Even knowing how important it was that we continue to operate, the safety of our employees, their families, and our community was our priority,” Moss explained, reflecting on the days prior to the state-wide stay-at-home orders and closures of non-essential businesses. “We knew things would have to change, so we started planning early and with the help of health experts.”
One of the first steps taken was to consult with executives from Howard Memorial Hospital on what protocols should be taken to protect manufacturing employees. Amy Buckingham, Head of ER at the Hospital, and Linda Givens, Patient Care Executive, visited the METALfx facility for a roundtable discussion, where they shared their own safety protocols. METALfx determined to mirror the hospital’s measures as closely as possible.
Specific protocols include a ban on non-essential visitors and a robust screening program for anyone entering the building: prior to each shift, employees are screened for temperature, symptoms, and possible exposure and then badged. Guidelines have been documented and dispersed on how to handle suspected infection. Once inside, the company has adjusted to a new normal in order to continue operations. Meetings are limited and are almost entirely virtual. Additional laptops and upgraded internet allow for all office staff to work from home. Safe social distancing has been established in communal areas such as the employee break and lunch rooms. Sanitation and cleaning procedures have increased five-fold.
“Concerns for the safety of our employees used to primarily involve the shop floor,” said BJ Gutierrez, Director of Human Resources at METALfx. “Now, it’s affecting all of us and changing how we operate. What hasn’t changed is that the health and well-being of our associates continues to be our main priority.”
Long-time employee, engineer Bruce Cartright, said he’s never experienced anything like this at METALfx or elsewhere. Cartright stated, “With the exception of morning health checks my job actually hasn’t changed much. Sheet metal is sheet metal, parts are parts. Still, it’s nice that I can come to work without having to worry about my safety with regards to COVID.”
Cartright added, “I’m on the Board for Frontier Days though, and we’re very concerned with how COVID will affect it. We’re already discussing whether we can still safely hold the event with COVID in the picture.” Established in 1926, Frontier Days is Willits’ premier event of the year, drawing significant numbers of locals and tourists. The event’s uncertainty is just one example of how the coronavirus is affecting everyone in multiple ways.
Now, more than ever, it’s important that companies and individuals in a position to help, even in small ways, do so. For METALfx, that means keeping their people employed and safe, keeping their customers supplied so that they can help end this once and for all. Like all businesses in this uncertain economy, the company expects to be impacted financially, but is well positioned to come out the other side strong. Moss credits the company’s efforts over the years to diversity its customer base with his confidence in their resilience.
“We are fortunate to be able to find ways to continue to operate and keep our employees going, and being part of the larger solution gives us all a sense of purpose,” Moss said. “We are thankful to our employees for their dedication during these unprecedented times. We are a small company, but we have been able to step up to make a big difference for those at the forefront of this fight.”
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