This article appeared in the June 2020 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
Manufacturers, like any company, function best during times of certainty; when they have a plan in place and can follow it without any complications. But 2020 has been anything but certain. As COVID-19 swept the globe, nearly every manufacturers’ plan was scrapped. Some businesses shut down for a time and others saw complete shifts in production. No one has been immune.
But manufacturers don’t roll over. They step up when they are needed.
As the demand for supplies and personal protective equipment reached critical mass, Detroit-based PVS Chemicals Inc. stepped up. The chemicals manufacturer realigned its capabilities to produce much-needed hand sanitizer for first responders, health care professionals and others battling the pandemic.
“Our success in fighting COVID-19 starts and ends with front-line workers and if PVS can play a small role in keeping them safe and saving the lives of others, we have to be doing it,” said David A. Nicholson, President and CEO of PVS Chemicals. “Manufacturers don’t want to be on the sidelines. We are a part of these communities and we always want to be there for them, particularly when they need our help.”
Since the first batch shipped in mid-April, PVS has delivered and donated thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer to locations across the state. With Michigan, and the Detroit region in particular, being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, the dedication shown by PVS and other manufacturers became front-page news.
“We were in a unique position to help; a lot of raw materials were already used in our normal production and we employ chemists and engineers who could stop and say ‘okay, today is a new day and it’s a new normal — how can we keep moving forward while shifting some of our capacity to meet this new need’,” Nicholson explained. “In very short order, they offered a solution that has been effective. That’s what manufacturers do and I think you’re seeing that in other sectors of the industry as well. At our core, every manufacturer is a problem-solver.”
Nicholson pointed to three specific areas that can help any manufacturer respond to crises and threats like COVID-19:
- Allow for quick decision-making and flexibility.
- Embrace the wisdom of long-time employees.
- Communicate openly with your team.
“Early on, communication was the one area we struggled with the most,” admitted Nicholson. “Things moved so fast and we had to make the effort to slow down and be sure we were all on the same page about what was happening, what we could do and how we could do it.”
As May rolled around and businesses began efforts for a full restart to the economy, there was an optimism from Nicholson and other leaders that brighter days were ahead thanks to the challenges the industry faced and overcame in 2020.
“These last few months have been hard but I’m proud of what I’ve seen from my team and from other Michigan manufacturers,” said Nicholson. “I think we all wish that this had never happened but it’s great to see what manufacturers can do when their backs are against the wall. We’ve stepped up and we’ll continue to step up. We’re all in this together.”