As an essential manufacturer, PennEngineering has remained operational during the COVID-19 pandemic that closed down many businesses. A mechanical fastener expert, the company manufactures several key products that support medical and life-sustaining applications. To this end, PennEngineering has kept its Danboro, PA headquarters open and operating.
“Typically, the automotive industry is one of the larger markets we serve, however, some of those same companies have switched to provide the much-needed masks and ventilators, or any other medical device components that have been critical to hospitals,” shares Brian Bentrim, VP, PEM New Product Development and Product Engineering, with PennEngineering.
“So, instead of supplying fasteners for automotive sub-components, for example, we’ve been focused on providing medical components. It’s been demanding but we’re glad we can help out,” he adds.
Additionally, the company’s Heyco division has been manufacturing face-shield frames using Nylon 6/6 regrind (regrind is the unused material that’s left over during the injection-molding process).
“It has also been procuring the plastic shields that will snap into the frames,” he says. So far, Heyco has donated an impressive 14,000-plus face shields to more than 25 organizations, including hospitals, nursing homes, dental offices, and many other health care facilities.
As employee health and safety is a top priority, PennEngineering has implemented strict social distancing and additional safety measures for anyone working in, entering or exiting its plant.
“We’ve put several measures into place to ensure safe working conditions,” explains Bentrim. “For example, we’ve had to create social distancing at our plant, staggering shifts, and increasing the spacing between employees.”
Such measures have included unique considerations, such as separate drop points where material handling is left in one spot and then picked up at a later time to ensure spacing. It’s also included mandatory personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves, and more rigorous cleaning protocols.
“However, for my R&D team, we’ve mostly been working remotely and stayed out of the office unless it’s been for something essential,” he says. This could include picking up prototypes or work in the lab. Bentrim’s team works to solve complex design challenges and produce innovative fastener solutions.
“For the most part, my team can do the research necessary and our designs from home, and simply send any testing out to the lab. We can then share the results with our team to view on the computer. So, almost everything works remotely, except for maybe the final three to five percent.”
This has provided some unexpected benefits: “And one of the great things that we’ve come to discover is how productive it’s been. It’s almost counter-intuitive, but perhaps there are fewer interruptions at home or more focus.”
What’s most important, according to Bentrim, is the capacity PennEngineering has had to continually meet the demands of its customers — even at this time. “We’ve been able to keep our staff safe and our customers happy. That’s a real success.”
The company’s technical support services have also stayed intact, with domestic and international support available to customers.
“At this point, some of our teams have already returned to their offices, such as in Galway, Ireland and Kunshan, China.” Bentrim says that in Danboro, however, his staff continues to work remotely as much as possible.
“Since this has worked out so well, I’m not pushing for a quick return to the office but allowing people to work in a manner that they feel is most suited to their situation,” he says. “Certainly, some have expressed a desire to return to the office and will likely do so in the next few weeks, but most would prefer to work remotely for a little longer. And that’s just fine with me.”