Win-Tech Inc. of Kennesaw, Georgia, is a build-to-print AS9100-certified aerospace manufacturer that is busy churning out medical parts. This is the new norm for select manufacturers across the country. If they have the capacity and can meet production requirements (most importantly tolerance and time), they are shifting their focus to quickly produce life-saving medical equipment to help combat the coronavirus.
This was the case at Win-Tech. Recently, a customer called who was working diligently to find a manufacturer to help supplement his current production. His supplier could not meet the sudden and seemingly overnight increase in demand, says Allison Giddens, director of operations. Although this production shift appeared to happen quickly, the groundwork was already laid. Win-Tech had made the corresponding prototype a few years ago, which has led to quicker-than-average turnaround of complete ventilator parts made from aluminum.
According to Ms. Giddens, most of the tooling and milling operations for the ventilator parts will take place on its Haas CNC machining centers, and the turning operations will take place on CNC lathes from Mazak and Okuma. She says that there isn’t anything done differently to this part that isn’t done to any part made at Win-Tech. “We pride ourselves on offering top-quality parts made to specification. There is a sort of pride, though, that comes with making parts that you know are immediately necessary to make life better, or in this case, save a life.”
When finished, the shop will have made more than 2,000 ventilator piece parts on this order. “We’re currently very busy, but we’re not at maximum capacity yet,” Ms. Giddens says. Win-Tech is still working on its aerospace work per contract, so the company had to get creative with its capacity and scheduling. “That’s part of the beauty of working for a small business — we can be nimble and flexible,” she says.
There are, of course, new challenges and risks to consider. For example, will COVID-19 cause a workforce shortage if employees get sick? How can the shop plan for that? Will its vendors be impacted by the pandemic in the short-term? How will that affect current work in progress?
To answer some of these questions, Win-Tech has living game plans, Ms. Giddens says. “We recognize that our plan today may change tomorrow, and again the next day, and again the next. We wouldn’t be in manufacturing if we didn’t recognize change as a constant.”
To ensure the health of its employees, Win-Tech adopted several thorough cleaning and sanitation practices early in this public health crisis. Not only is each person responsible for specific work-area cleaning, but someone is responsible for on-the-hour cleaning of common areas, doorknobs, flat surfaces and more. The shop has relaxed its PTO policy to allow for employees to be more flexible during family challenges related to school closures. It has implemented social distancing requirements and canceled non-business-essential visitors. For those visitors who must be on site for product delivery, the shop has enacted new evaluations at the lobby door to ensure that its employees are not exposed to someone showing signs of COVID-19. All pre-planned audits have been rescheduled to be virtual.
“Win-Tech employees are proud to be manufacturing ventilator parts. We recognize that we are a small piece of the puzzle but are proud to be a part of the vital greater good,” Ms. Giddens says.
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