The impact of COVID-19 on the metalworking community
The coronavirus pandemic is quickly and inevitably changing the lives of metalworkers across the world. Some of them are stepping up to fight the battle against the virus, either helping with the production of critical parts or donating PPE to health care professionals. Others have been hit by the virus in unexpected ways and are trying to find ways to recover.
Below, we are featuring their stories, giving voice to all the community members who are facing tougher times along with opportunities to showcase some remarkable examples of how the metalworking industry is making a difference during this pandemic.
If you would like to share your story or discuss ideas on how to help during the COVID-19 pandemic, tag us and use the hashtag #metalworkingstrong on social media or contact us at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you.
The owner of the building decided to sell, so we don’t have a choice but to sell all the equipment. We’ve been setting up everything for the auction that will take place on May 28th, but due to the current situation we won’t be able to have any on-site inspections, it would be too much risk to have a bunch of people running around here. We decided to do a virtual inspection and try to answer as many questions as possible on phone and on video.
Things might go really cheap, things might not. We don’t know, we’re gonna find out during the auction on May 28th.
We don’t know where we’re gonna be at that point. I feel machine shop owners are tough people and they are not gonna lay down, sit home and do nothing. I think everybody’s out doing what they can, still buying machinery, still doing things that you normally would do just being cautious as we are.
It was just 3 weeks ago that a spark was ignited. And since then, an entire COVID-19 PPE production response has been executed. Monday of March 21st, Dave Yeaman, president of Molded Precision Components, reached out to their, at the time, client Sterling Industries hoping to brainstorm a collaboration to help fight COVID-19. Sterling Industries was on the same page, responding ‘We’ve engaged with the government let’s make something happen.’ By March 23rd, the idea of developing a face shield was decided on. That Friday, March 27th, the design patent was complete and ready for production. The following Monday Sterling Industries and Molded Precision Components became a joint venture and applied for a government grant. April 7th, 2020 the provincial government of Ontario signed off on a PO for 1 million face shields and the Canadian Federal government has accepted a proposal for 10 million face shields. By the time you are reading this, Molded Precision Components and Sterling Industries will be using 17 injection molding machines and seven 3D printers to produce (at full production) 300,000 face shields a day. At full ramp-up, that means one face shield every quarter of a second. They say for every single face shield shipped; ten people are protected. Talk about a larger than life impact. Hockey rinks and fire stations around Oro-Medonte in the County of Simcoe in Ontario have offered their facilities to be turned into additional manufacturing bases. The company is taking precautionary safety measures a priority, employees are required to disinfect their workstations three times a day, there are no visitors allowed, and those who can work from home do. Yeaman describes an unexpected wave of community support. With over 60 applications from college students to run the night shifts, ten have been onboarded and he expects to add more. Just after their first news feature a man showed up wanting to help the effort in any way and that he will work for free. He has become an “on-call driver”, driving to and from Toronto picking up material for the 3D printer and delivering samples at the last minute and off-hours. Because of visionary leadership, innovation, collaboration, and an extraordinary team of dedicated people a little Canadian automotive company has become a major PPE company. The facility is planning to extend efforts into Michigan, Illinois, and New York.
Molded Precision Components
“The FIRST Robotics competition was canceled mid-season due to COVID-19. Since schools were also canceled, we knew there were 20+ printers just sitting at the schools collecting dust. We saw an opportunity. We were able to collect all of the printers from four schools in the district and start manufacturing face shields. We have 23 printers running 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, to print 200 face shields per day. Laser cutters are being used to cut petg sheets for the face shield until we ran out of petg due to the current shortage. High school students are both operating the machines and distributing the completed shields to local medical workers, law enforcement, elderly care staff, and dentists.”
Team 2052 KnightKrawler
“Weat RRD (Reaper Racing Developments) foresaw the need for hand sanitizer and ppe for the covid 19 pandemic.
With the already stagnant motorsports and engineering market becoming almost nonexistent with the current situation we decided to focus on manufacturing and distribution of ethanol based hand sanitizer and masks to help the community and surrounding areas.”
Reaper Racing Developments
“I did a shoulder patting thing today, and I do not do that often, I presented the receptionist at my family Doctors office today with 5 packs with 20 each excellent quality respirator masks and told her it’s yours if you want them. She was lost as how to respond, she said I will have to call the Office Manager, short conversation, which at the very end I could hear “Hell Yes” on the other end…. That is the way it should be folks”
Jrmach, Practical Machinist Member
“American Machine & Gear Works supplies the Medical & Defense industries (among others) and have simply been too busy with all that our nation is enduring at the moment. We are a full-service manufacturing facility and ready to help. If you work in any level of Federal or State government and have need for ANYTHING that we can help with LET US KNOW. We are more than happy to contribute and help this great Nation get back on its feet in any manner that we can.”
American Machine Gear
“The arrival of Coronavirus has been an increasingly difficult storm to ride for Chamooka Precision Machining. Having started the business after being made redundant 3 years ago I was finally starting to make headway. Now 75% of my income has disappeared due to other company lockdowns and the fear to order in such uncertain times. Loans for machinery which were easily met are now a cause for worry. There’s government help available but access is not immediate. Thankfully I am a subcontractor for products used in medical diagnostics and health care so I still have a small income. How long I can keep it up though I’m unsure. Still need capital for raw materials and other subcontractors. I’ve been in touch with many in health care product manufacturing and signed up with government initiative so hopefully someone out there needs support. I’m pretty sure CPM will make it through this but it’s future, well, as with all things, only time will tell.”
Chamooka Precision Machining
“The main business of my company (NiCoform Inc) is electroforming. Electroforming is depositing a thick metal layer of plating (in our case a proprietary nickel cobalt alloy) onto a machined mandrel to produce a replica of the mandrel or original. We then can extract the plated shell from the mandrel or original and it becomes a electroform by definition. The specific parts shown in the pictures are of a machined aluminum mandrel on the left and the resulting electroform on the right. The part on the right I am showing is a medical tip forming die used to form the delicate tips of medical tubing like catheters, endotracheal tubes, and many other types of tubing used in the medical field. The mandrel making process requires precision cnc turning and milling to tolerances of +/-.0002 and hand polishing to achieve a extremely smooth finish. We can make these in many different configurations and shapes, basically whatever can be dreamed up! My company and I are very happy that we can play a role in helping to support the medical community during this time of need.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Memphis District has a critical role in helping maintain navigation on the lower Mississippi River, keeping the waterway open to traffic, preventing erosion, maintaining the levee system, flood risk reduction, and flood fighting. The Memphis District Metals Unit provides support in the maintenance and manufacturing of parts for USACE equipment. The equipment ranges from 50+ year old equipment and vessels to the most modern. Currently during the COVID19 pandemic, we continue to execute our primary mission and remain prepared to respond to flooding events in our area of responsibility while also practicing CDC safety recommended actions such as social distancing. While this does make are job a little harder to accomplish, safety in the workplace is a top priority, so we make it work. Current projects the Metal Unit is working on include the manufacturing of dredge pipeline, servicing and production of new bank grading bucket teeth, and manufacturing prop shafts for multiple USACE motor vessels.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
“Atlas Metal Conversion in Eighty Four Pennsylvania has chosen to remain open in the midst of the Covid19 pandemic so we can continue to bring quality steel & titanium products to our customers. Many of our products are used in the medical field and strive to fight this pandemic together.”
Atlas Metal Conversion
“I work at a transformer company in WI. We are almost 4 weeks in and they have finally gave workstations some kind of cleaning solution for the machines and tools to wipe dow, they put actual soap in the bathroom that didn’t have soap, hired a bathroom cleaning service for 3rd shift. So they made some steps but only after 4 weeks.
We were told 3/31/20 that there was a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the plant. They would not tell us who it was so we would know if we came in contact with them, they wouldn’t tell us what department he was in. They refused to close and clean the area where employee was working. Who knows how many people are carrying from him being here for a full day working with tools etc.
There are still only a few hand cleaners around the whole shop. No gloves or masks are given or supplied to employees. Doors not being propped open. No temperatures taken “because other virus’s also can cause fevers”.
Still constant forced 10hr work days along with forcing employees to work 8hrs min every Saturday. Not allowing people to stay home if they are sick. Not allowing people with preconditions to stay home. Union has done nothing.
They posted why they are forcing overtime still, they replied because the customers ordered transformers and they will need them in the future to stay on track. They would rather continue to work their employees to death rather than let them rest.
Rumor has it after they were so hush hush on the positive result, someone did contact the local news. I heard that today, so still waiting to see if that will change some things within.
Im stressed out of my mind, and am expected to work my ass off for 48+hrs a week. I don’t want to stay home and be lazy. I want to stay home so I don’t get sick and spread it to my family. I tried bringing up solutions to my boss, HR and the Union. I was pretty much blown off on all 3. Nothing changed until we already had a confirmed case within the plant. I just fear for the worse for my older coworkers. Over 50% of the employees aren’t taking this seriously.”
“I’ve been laid off since 3/18. I’m a toolroom machinist, nothing cutting edge. I just need to get back to work to makeup pay and then pay my bills. Don’t get me wrong I love being with my family for this extended time ( just me and my wife) and helping at our church food pantry 3 days a week however I don’t want to become a burden on others, my God built me for producing, things yes but more so confidence in others. I feel my story is part of the bigger picture of what today looks like. The spirit of what I believe my piece of the story is faith, love, gratitude and a desire to be part of the comeback! I’m 59 years old and one of the best things about getting back to work will be the banter and the other conversations with the young apprentices and graduates. Thank you and God bless.”
Richard J. Ceretto