July, 2020

Page 21 Contract Manufacturing in the Time of COVID-19 Continued from previous page

customers, while providing a safe and healthy place for its employees. “We are committed to keeping our skilled workforce in place and to pro- tecting and maintaining supply chains, because both are key to a quick return to normal production,” says Raby. “We had a rapid slow down while

customers assessed where they were. Some have gone back to almost nor- mal and some are slowed or stopped. We are much less efficient with the full workforce and the lower volume, but that is a choice we are making,” he continues. STI has always taken a lot of

pride in having a very clean facility. This has been ratcheted up several notches, as everything is being cleaned and sanitized regularly. The company has separated workstations and made several other changes to protect employees. “Regarding price concerns, we

have seen price and delivery sched- ules increase (in some cases, double) for some items,” says Raby. “Some suppliers have been forced to produce less, due to COVID-19, while their customers are buying more to ensure their ability to return to normal quickly.” According to Raby, STI’s most

serious issue is procuring a particu- lar component that the company has been using for several years. The part has been on order for more than six months, but STI still has no idea when it will finally arrive. “We have a delivery date, but it

is the fifth or sixth ‘guaranteed’ de- livery date for this item, so our confi- dence level isn’t high,” says Raby. “We are approaching a time when this $1 part can determine our abili- ty to deliver, to keep people employed and deliver to our largest customer.” Another concern is how long it will take for the supply chain to become reliable again going forward. The company has also seen cer-

tain raw materials, such as isopropyl alcohol, being reallocated and not available for purchase, while the sup- ply for larger companies has been protected. This is not a big change from normal, but, according to Raby, makes the life of a small business a little more interesting. Most of the company’s changes

have involved people. “As a small EMS company, we’ve never had peo- ple regularly working from home, be- cause everyone is essential to what we build,” says Raby. With COVID- 19, the company has tried to reduce the population in our building at any given time for everyone’s safety, so it now has almost everyone who does not touch the product working from home. “This isn’t ideal and it isn’t as efficient, but it is a choice we’ve made for the overall good,” he says. STI has been in business 38

years and has never had a boring year, according to Raby. “We’re al- ways changing and this pandemic is the latest chapter. We’ve got a great team and I’ve been extremely im- pressed with how they have adapted and handled this. I look forward to coming out on the other side of this and I am sure we will be a different, but better, company and a better in- dustry when we do.”

Doug Dow, COO, Absolute EMS “Absolute EMS is a leader in the

industry and a critical segment of our manufacturing is for medical cus- tomers, especially during this time,” says Doug Dow, COO, Absolute EMS. “We must go above and beyond in due diligence with our supply chain. Our customers are involved with front-line deliveries, so any lack of delivery means that loss of life may occur.” In addition to communication

and accountability, employee educa- tion is also critical. A safe environ- ment consists of educating the em- ployees in the workplace with exten- sive training and a commitment from them to practice safe policies. If any of them get sick, then

manufacturing could be crippled or even shut down. Precautionary measures also include daily disinfect- ing of the workplace environment. “We find ourselves in a situation where there are more customers seeking help to get their essential products to market, due to the fact that many CMs are not deemed Es- sential Businesses,” says Dow. The major shift at Absolute

EMS, due to the pandemic, regards supply chain management. “We are staying in constant contact with our suppliers to ensure that they can continue to provide the parts and products that we need to continue to

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