Around the nation, companies and businesses have found ways to help with the unique challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Manufacturers have supplied needed equipment to meet health care needs, reached out in various ways to support front-line workers and found ways to provide what people in their areas of the country need. For example, distillers are repurposing their production lines to make hand sanitizer. Apparel makers are sewing cloth masks and protective gowns. Automobile plants are making ventilators.
Valve manufacturers have been doing their part, not just by supplying critical valve products, but also by providing gear to protect people on the front line and offering vital resources to their communities.
RESPONDING TO URGENT VALVE SUPPLY NEEDS
Because valves are so critical to many industries, including the medical community, several valve makers have answered the call to help by supplying special orders of valves.
For example, global manufacturer ITT Engineered Valves provided 20 of its Bio-Tek hygienic diaphragm valves to a pharmaceutical company that was setting up pilot lines to run testing on potential COVID-19 drug treatments.
Product director Dave Loula explained that, “We’ve had various contacts from companies asking for expedited delivery on COVID-related products.” An area of great need has been for the valves necessary for producing three types of COVID-related bio-pharma products: test kits, therapeutics and vaccines, Loula said.
One of the customers of Cincinnati-based Richards Industrials contacted the company in great need of valves for ventilator testing machines.
“When our channel partner in Detroit called asking if we could ship ten of our high-pressure, low-flow pressure relief valves the same day in support of ventilator production testing, my on-the-spot response was, ‘Yes, consider it done,’” said Charles Page, vice president of sales for Richards Industrials.
After a brief huddle with the key players, the company began machining bar stock into component parts, which occurred within half an hour after the call was received.
“We had completed valves on the road just five hours later,” Page said.
The next hurdle was ensuring expedient delivery.
“One of our technical sales consultants headed north in his personal car, handing them off to our regional sales manager in Troy, OH, who drove them to the Ohio/Michigan border, handing them off to the end user,” he explained.
A similar request came into manufacturer Emerson, which shifted priorities and resources at one its plants (Aiken, SC) to produce valves for 50,000 respirators an automobile plant in Michigan was making. Emerson also responded to a request from respirator mask plants in Arizona and Rhode Island that needed the electronic equipment Emerson manufactures in Virginia. The valve manufacturer re-prioritized orders to get the equipment shipped promptly.
In Boulder, CO, Emerson answered the call to help a distillery convert equipment to making hand sanitizer. The company provided a Coriolis flow meter that could automate and speed up the process. The bulk of the sanitizer has been donated to first responders, medical facilities and social aid organizations in the area.
Sue Ooi, vice president of marketing with Emerson’s final control valves business, explained why the company felt it was important to take such actions.
“We understand and take seriously the key role we have in supporting so many essential critical infrastructure workers in life sciences, food and beverage, chemical, power, energy and other essential industries as they carry out their vital work.”
3D PRINTING FOR THE FRONT LINE
Manufacturers that have new technologies already up and running have found ways to use it to benefit people facing the COVID-19 situation. For example, companies that have 3D printing capability have offered their printers, materials and labor to make items such as face shield frames that protect medical workers, first responders and other front-line personnel.
For example, when the manufacturer of Val-Matic’s 3D printer contacted the valve company about an emergency project to supply vital disposable face shields for distribution to health care workers across the Midwest, the company responded. R&D staff members at Val-Matic started running the 3D printer around the clock producing the face shield frames.
President and CEO John Ballun of Val-Matic explains why.
“Val-Matic Valve continues to be hard at work building valve products for the waterworks infrastructure systems. But our job does not end there,” he said. It extends to helping in the community.
PROVIDING PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
Another way that companies have found to help is by giving what they have on hand to their communities. Companies with access to face masks and other protective equipment, for example, have been generous in donating them to front-line workers.
ValvTechnologies, Inc. donated more than 800 masks to the Houston Fire Department in an effort to protect those responders.
Many valve and other companies are donating and supporting efforts in their local communities, sometimes looking at bolstering programs they already support in new ways.
For example, some valve companies have found ways to answer the call for food. In St. Louis, Emerson pledged $1 million to aid local food banks as well as agencies assisting the homeless and other nonprofits that are seeing increased need during the pandemic. Emerson CEO David Farr said that retired Emerson executives and their families also planned to donate an additional $1 million.
Victaulic, a manufacturer of valves and mechanical pipe joining devices, decided to give additional aid to a Pennsylvania-based program for which it has been a longtime supporter: Valley Youth House, a provider of services such as housing, mentoring and in-school programs.
“For decades, Victaulic has partnered with Valley Youth House to empower resiliency in young people, helping them establish promising futures,” said Megan Longenderfer, manager of Corporate Communications at Victaulic.
The company chose to lend additional support during the crisis because of the challenges those young people faced because of isolation.
“During this increasingly difficult time, when we have all been called to maintain social distancing, youth without technology are particularly at a disadvantage,” she said.
After learning many of these young people and families were cut off from the outside, living in apartments without any communication devices, Victaulic refurbished and donated 22 laptops to Valley Youth House, bringing the total the company has given to the organization to 138.
“Victaulic’s donation of technology helps youths and families in need maintain their connections to schools supporting remote education, as well as social connections to family and friends, which is so vital during this time,” Longenderfer said.
As with many valve companies, “Victaulic aims to be a good neighbor in every community where we live and work,” Longenderfer explained.
REACHING OUT LOCALLY IS GOOD BUSINESS
An MIT Sloan Management Review article early in the pandemic looked at how COVID-19 was affecting businesses and manufacturing in China and which companies were doing well once things started looking up. One of the main conclusions was that it was the organizations that were finding ways to be community players that were coming out ahead.
“Companies that recognize the stress on social systems during medical emergencies are more likely to do better afterward than companies that do not,” the article says.
Charlotta Sirén, associate professor, University of Queensland Business School and co-author of the article, adds that “Doing good in your local community is more important than ever in natural disasters such as COVID-19. Contributing to the local community will lay out the foundations for post-COVID-19 business.”
In addition to simply being a good practice for ethical reasons, “there are empirically established correlations between charitable activities and future financial performance, improved relations with government authorities and reputational legitimacy,” the article concludes.
Effective approaches, according to MIT Sloan Management Review, include:
- Targeting local nonprofits and community outreach organizations. “Corporate generosity has a much larger impact when it is provided directly to a local community.”
- Encouraging employees to volunteer. “Employees who have the option to participate in corporate volunteer programs are more likely to participate repeatedly.”
- Putting the word out. Without boasting, companies can send a concise external announcement after they’ve donated, giving only the basics: the amount donated, the organization supported and what the business hopes the donation can accomplish.