GMFCo Supports Critical Manufacturing for COVID-19 Testing

A New England based manufacturer of the best virus testing swabs available recently contacted us because of our large machining and fabricating capabilities. In extremely short order, GMFCo began fabricating frames and housings for medical test swab manufacturing equipment to rapidly increase capacity. Practically overnight, Puritan Medical Products needed to multiply it’s swab manufacturing capacity, meeting worldwide demand for COVID-19 testing.

Headquartered in Gilford, Maine, Puritan was already a leading US-based manufacturer of medical swabs, diagnostics and specimen collection products before COVID-19. Then the pandemic swept across the world and multiplied global demand for their products overnight. As soon as we got the call, GMFCo understood the urgency of supporting Puritan Medical Products’ manufacturing operations so we tooled up to produce the frames and larger components needed to further build out their swab production lines. This resulted in the fastest and most efficient increase in manufacturing capability in company history. It also helped make the USA the top nation in the world for COVID-19 testing, by far.

Manufacturing Collaboration at Its Best

When it became clear there was an urgent worldwide and national health threat, manufacturers’ priorities shifted immediately over to supporting the critical infrastructure and healthcare systems. That we did. Working closely with the engineers and mechanics at Puritan, we helped assure that their urgent need for new equipment parts was fulfilled.

Fruitful efforts like these supported President Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed” initiatives that rapidly increased critical manufacturing around the country. Puritan Medical Products’ expansion to produce the most accurate specimen collection swabs in testing for COVID-19 was crucial to its success. Because Puritan is the only US maker of the preferred foam testing swab, they were awarded a federal contract to expand swab production capacity at a record speed.

“Warp Speed” Plant Expansion

Puritan’s blog tells part of their story as excerpted here. “We began work on a new manufacturing plant immediately, with two teams working virtually around the clock. We leased 100,000 square feet of space in an old smoke detector factory in Pittsfield, ME, rebuilding much of it…

“While a project of this type normally takes 18-20 months, with the help of our partners, we were able to begin swab production in just 8 weeks. And 5 months later, the plant was completed.

“Prior to opening Pittsfield, we were making 20 million foam swabs per month.  The goal set forth by the Defense Production Act government contact was to increase capacity by another 20 to 40 million swabs per month. We’re excited to report that Pittsfield is already turning out 40 million and is on track to increase production to 90 million swabs per month!”

More Positive Impacts

The 2020 Puritan Medical Products plant expansions led to the creation of over 300 new jobs in central Maine where the manufacturing sector has struggled in recent decades. “It’s great to help bring back manufacturing jobs that were once so prevalent in central Maine,” the company’s blog stated.

GMFCo’s CEO Jack Gilchrist, a US Air Force Veteran and former medic, put his company’s role in perspective when he said, “2020 was the year that reminded us what words like ‘crisis’ and ‘urgent’ really mean. You drop everything in front of you when millions of lives are potentially at stake. You wake up, suit up and show up wherever you’re most needed. Working with Puritan and other companies who answer urgent needs brings into focus why we’re always ready to pivot on a dime, gear up and retool our large machining centers to help address national priorities.”

Keeping the Grass Green on Our Side of The Fence

If you pay attention to worker productivity, the 80/20 rule seems to play out when you let things alone. 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people and vice versa. But if you manage individual employee productivity, that is, work with each team member to learn their career goals and understand how to harness their acute skills, then you can build a 50/50 high performance team where everyone contributes nearly an equal share of effort and output.

Gilchrist employee team

If “just showing up is 80%,” staying the course is infinitely better!

Finding and keeping good people remains one of the biggest challenges for manufacturers. Most employers are familiar with the new employee who shows great promise during the onboarding phase. They seem like a keeper, only to leave when a personal issue or a perceived better offer comes along. 

While not every new hire works out, at GMFCo, we continually strengthen our core and enjoy watching employees we consider to be “keepers” build great lives and families over the years. In fact, 15 employees have been with us for over 10 years and six are still here after 30+ years! They’ve had secure positions with us through several significant recessions including the current pandemic.

Every Department is an HR Department

employee productivity

Our strategy has been to build a strong and loyal team over time by getting to know each of our people as individuals and what makes them tick. They support our business success as we support their career success. If we expect employee engagement and loyalty, we must be loyal and nurturing as an organization throughout every department.

Our goal for every team member is for them to feel the confidence of having a great job with opportunities to learn and grow. We’ve achieved this with our core team and strive to discover the career goals and special skills of every employee, offering a career success path that starts right where they are.

Getting the word out about being a great place to work can be a challenge when skilled people tend to have plenty of choices and recruiters are competing for their attention. Essentially, we’re always hiring for positions with upward mobility and offer this message to people in our market who want to apply their skills in meaningful ways.

The Business We Are Really In

What does all this HR and recruiting talk have to do with large metal fabricating and machining? In two words, commitment and skills. Again, ask any manufacturer today about their top 3 priorities and we’ll bet they include finding and keeping good people as one of them.  
Manufacturing needs committed people
We’re proud of our industry and grateful for the opportunities to bring tangible, solid results to our customers. To make the things that make our world work, our industry needs committed people who enjoy working with their minds and applying it with their hands. We need motivated individuals who like seeing their work form into key components for important defense, municipal and industrial projects.

Metal Fabricating for Residential Architecture is Changing

Custom Metal Architecture CenterpieceArchitects and builders who work on large scale, single family residences have approached us with some interesting projects over the years. Because of the economic and cultural changes going on right now, people are leaving urban areas for more peaceful settings and working from home. Some are building luxury homes and landscapes that take on an impressive scope, similar in size and complexity to commercial construction projects. 

These kinds of residential properties require custom architectural metal fabrications that are both structural and artistic. They require a high level of experience and creative vision to interpret designs and understand detailed drawings, and they usually need fabrication and machining capabilities beyond the commonly available.

Exactly what are we talking about? Think about some of the most striking features of a beautiful home both indoors and outdoors. Feature stairs, seamless rails, custom range hoods, large outdoor kitchens, pergolas, walking bridges, recreation structures, garden features and outdoor art. The list goes on…

The Ability to Envision and Perform

Custom Parkway ArchitectureWhenever you approach a company with a need, you are looking for answers and solutions. When the company starts asking you focused questions, it’s good to continue the conversation. Asking the right questions helps us to “see it” before it’s real.

GMFCo looks at architectural metals with eyes focused on the end use. What is the structural function? How exposed will the surfaces be? What is the artistic and esthetic feature? How should the surface be finished? How and at what phase will it be installed on site? We are repeatedly called on to help provide solutions for questions like these. 

Solution-based Approach

Because we believe strongly in our motto, “where others see challenges, we see opportunities,” we’re always happy to look at unique and challenging architectural projects and we work hard to achieve each client’s goals. If we feel the project is best handled by another shop, we have a great referral network that includes Modern Metal Solutions, a specialty detailer and fabricator located right in our industrial park. Sometimes we work hand in hand with them to help supply components as we do with other select service providers. 

Getting it Right the First Time

Architects can “test the mettle” of miscellaneous metals fabricators because custom architectural metalwork is a construction specialty that can include one-of-a-kind, difficult-to-produce building components. It’s often the larger, customized metals that create bottlenecks in the construction process. That’s why it’s best to work with the most experienced, large capability fabricators who ask the right questions and have the foresight to avoid costly assumptions.

Residential Metal Architecture Accent

The last thing a building owner needs is a deinstallation and rework of an expensive, custom manufactured component. The main thing both owner and architect want is a smooth and predictable project implementation. We approach every job with its successful end in mind.

If you have an architectural metals project or any other fabrication need that tests the limits of your suppliers, feel free to talk to us about it. We’ll put our heads together to fulfill your opportunity in spite of the perceived challenges. Contact us online or call us at 603-889-2600.