PolyScience, a manufacturer of liquid temperature control solutions, is assisting with the COVID-19 relief effort by providing supporting equipment to companies who manufacture face shields and other items used by frontline healthcare workers. The Niles, Illinois-based company has been declared an essential business during the COVID-19 crisis, and as such it is working in a “behind-the-scenes” role to get other manufacturing companies the equipment they need in order to rapidly create and ship their products to those in need.
Philip Preston, president/CEO of PolyScience, tells Lab Manager that he’s always been aware that his company’s liquid temperature control equipment is used in a “very, very broad scope of applications,” but since PolyScience’s main customers are major analytical instrumental and medical equipment companies, he didn’t immediately realize that his equipment could be used to make things like face shields. “As soon as all of this hit, we got letters from all of these major customers asking us to please continue to stay open and supply them with equipment because that equipment was needed either for making protective equipment or the analytical instrumentation needed and clinical instrumentation needed,” he says.
In order to maintain worker safety and adhere to social distancing guidelines, PolyScience implemented a few changes to its normal operating procedures. The company allowed many of its employees to work from home in order to minimize person-to-person exposure, and divided its floor workers into two separate shifts—a hidden benefit, says David Wallach, marketing director at PolyScience, describing how the change in work times has enabled some employees with young children to spend more time at home with them during the day. He adds that Preston met with all his employees at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis to encourage them to speak up if they felt uncomfortable about coming to work in the building, but everyone agreed to do what needed to be done in order to help out.
One of the companies utilizing PolyScience’s products is Kern Laser Systems, a company in Wadena, Minnesota, that uses PolyScience chillers in its laser systems, which are used for cutting products ranging from wood, plastics, and leather to light metal. Adam Voigt of Kern says that partnering with PolyScience has allowed his company to fulfill its obligations to its own customers during the health crisis, and get them the supplies that they need in order to help others. “For us, it’s been amazing how people can utilize the laser to do multiple different things. Their innovation around it has been eye-opening … PPE wasn’t even an application on our website two months ago and now it’s one of the top applications,” Voight says. He adds, “Our goal is to keep our customers up and running while they’re producing these items, and to supply them with the information they need to cut certain files.”
Another PolyScience client, Faulkner Plastics of Hialeah, Florida, shifted production from items like boat windshields and signs to making face shields for healthcare workers and the general public. Faulkner uses PolyScience’s chillers to manufacture its products. Meanwhile, PPI Technologies Sarasota, Florida, uses PolyScience chillers as part of its process to make hand sanitizer.
Keeping companies afloat and workers’ jobs secure, especially during a period of high unemployment and economic uncertainty, is another reason why Preston has directed PolyScience to ramp up its efforts. “I’m really, really happy that we’re able to keep people employed—I have for a very long time been a strong believer in US manufacturing. I think that we are constantly bringing innovation to the market, we're constantly working toward a higher level of quality,” he says. Aaron Kern, CEO/president of Kern Technologies, LLC, agrees: “Kern Technologies has always promoted how our products are 100 percent designed and manufactured in the USA. This factor has been a cornerstone of our business as it has allowed us to build reliable equipment and provide excellent customer service. These great manufacturing jobs have also allowed us to support many local families. Even through these trying times we have managed to avoid cutting hours or furloughing any employees.”
Preston sadly adds that it may not be “business as usual” again for a long time—if ever. Personal interaction is vital to a supplier-consumer relationship, he says, and the days of handshakes, customary cheek kisses in Europe, and close face-to-face meetings may be over. “In the early stages of this was the Pittcon show (held in Chicago in early March 2020) and at that point I was already into the elbow bump. I couldn't believe it—I made it through a Pittcon without shaking any hands!” he laughs. But for now, he and his staff are comforted by the knowledge that their hard work has made a positive impact on a struggling nation. “It’s brought a sense of really bringing this team together. There’s been a tremendous pride in being an essential worker,” he says. When he passes on stories from grateful customers to his production team, he says, “I think that it has really allowed that team of people to connect the dots to how often something that sounds kind of mundane, like liquid temperature control, helps. We’re not the superheroes out there, but we’re the essential component that makes all the other things work. From that perspective, it’s really helped my team to understand how many cool areas we really touch.”