Andy Balaskovitz highlighted D+M Metal Products in a MiBiz article about changing requirements in the workplace due to the coronavirus. The State of Michigan is reopening our economy in phases and requiring that employers implement safety measures designed to ensure that workers are protected. Included in those measures are workplace health screenings.
D+M Metal never closed due to the pandemic. We were designated an essential business early on due to the fact that we make parts necessary for a variety of useful products, including ones produced in the healthcare sector. However, that doesn’t mean that it was “business as usual” for us. In the past 70 days we have transitioned our plant and our processes to keep workers as safe as possible while they do their jobs and become compliant with executive orders Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed when she allowed the manufacturing sector to reopen. Executive Order 2020-77 mandates that manufacturers:
“[C]onduct a daily entry screening protocol for workers, contractors, suppliers, and any other individuals entering a worksite, including a questionnaire covering symptoms and suspected or confirmed exposure to people with possible COVID-19, together with, if possible, a temperature screening.”
We are meeting this requirement for workplace health screenings by staggering when our workers arrive so that they can take time to answer the questionnaire. They enter our building during one of our four shifts between 5:30 and 7:30 AM, and they must report how they are feeling as well as have their temperatures checked. It’s a very brief process. Limiting how many people are on one shift removes the potential for bottlenecks during arrivals.
What do we do with the data we collect? We send it to local health officials in hopes that they will use it to track, predict, and prevent future outbreaks of coronavirus so that health and society will be protected. None of the data we submit contains identifying information.
We are participating in this program with Meijer, Cascade Engineering, and many other Kent County businesses. The work that has been done to make the health screenings quick, simple, and painless is a help to smaller businesses like D+M Metal that do not have the time or the resources to create health screenings from scratch.
Gov. Whitmer opened up two large geographical sections of Michigan for retail and hospitality last week. Many people believe that West Michigan can’t be too far behind, especially with the numbers of new cases and hospitalizations dropping. However, reopening will have complications too. In the beginning of this pandemic, no one knew what we’re dealing with, but, as time has passed, it’s easier to understand what it means for individuals and also businesses.
It’s likely that we will see safety precautions implemented and continued into 2021. Some of them may change. Daily health screenings may not be necessary after some time has passed, or they might temporarily disappear and then return later, such as in the fall and winter.
Challenging or not, these changes seem to be here to stay for now. It’s been our experience that health screenings and other cautionary measures can be implemented without too much workplace disruption. These problems can be solved, it just takes patience and perseverance. We would like to thank Andy Balaskovitz for taking the time to interview us and include our experience in his article about West Michigan businesses tackling the coronavirus.
D+M Metal Products has been especially busy since the COVID-19 pandemic began, fabricating parts that are incorporated into cleanroom products, healthcare technology, and other very necessary items. We’ve also been busy making parts for conveyor systems that are used in the fulfillment economy. Since the lockdowns have been put into place around the country, people have been more dependent on delivered goods from companies like Amazon. Those goods are sorted and shipped using conveyor technology, and conveyors run using fabricated parts we make here.
The demand for goods ordered online and delivered to customers’ front doors isn’t new. It’s been ramping up for years. Amazon, in fact, has been focused on expanding its delivery network for some time, trying to compete with UPS, FedEx, and the United States Postal Service. Amazon has customers nationwide, but they don’t yet have the permanent facilities necessary to complete their network. So in a number of American cities they have erected enormous tents like the ones you see at carnivals. These serve as delivery stations - the last leg of each package’s journey. Inside workers sort products, pack boxes, and use long conveyor belts to get them from sorting area to truck and on to their final destinations.
Many other businesses besides Amazon rely on conveyors in their material handling systems too. Americans are used to going to the store and choosing their own products and then taking them home on their own. The new online ordering model means that many diverse products need to be shipped and received from different vendors and then sorted and organized and boxed up in regional service centers for individual customers. This process requires different equipment that will become more prevalent and necessary as the fulfillment model of shopping overtakes the one we are used to.
Conveyor technology is relatively straightforward, but there are many types of conveyors, and they all have different parts. We are currently manufacturing conveyor side rails. These hold rollers in place. We also make leg pieces. These get bolted to the floor to keep the conveyor built upright and in place.
D+M Metal Products works with our customers to supply what they need when they need it, whether that means parts for in-store displays, the healthcare sector, or the fulfillment economy. Because our products are small parts of greater wholes, they aren’t often recognizable as their own products. They are still vital for the product they augment to function properly, though. If your company needs fabricated parts for any purpose, please call us. We will be happy to discuss what we can do for your business.
It’s a challenging time right now for all of us with the COVID-19 pandemic, but D+M Metal Products is still on the job, helping to keep essential businesses operating. While the public has a responsibility to stay at home and maintain a distance from friends and relatives to avoid the greater spread of the coronavirus, the manufacturing sector is working hard. We are providing companies with the products they need to function. This includes companies in the healthcare sector.
As a metal fabricator, D+M Metal does not usually manufacture entire products. The parts that we make go into larger items that people see or use all of the time. Some of these parts are incorporated into healthcare technology, patient monitoring, and clean room products. All of these are in high demand right now.
In recent days we’ve seen the grocery store shelves emptied of bleach and disinfectant wipes, but, unfortunately, chemical germ fighting is not very effective. We can’t see the germs we miss, and they can remain active on various surfaces for days. It’s very difficult, even for motivated and careful workers to completely sanitize everything.
One metro Grand Rapids company has a unique solution to combat bacteria and viruses that cause disease, including the coronavirus. Skytron developed a robot called the IPT 3000 that emits ultraviolet light. These rays function to short circuit viruses’ DNA so it cannot replicate itself. This is called ultraviolet germicidal irradiation. Sensors on the IPT 3000 determine how much UV light to emit and how long it must be in operation. This takes the guesswork out of using it for workers.
Hospitals and other area medical facilities have been using this technology for about a decade, but it’s also effective at destroying germs and bacteria in places like schools and prisons. For the safety of the public, however, it must be used only when there is no one present and certain safety precautions are taken.
This week Spectrum health announced that it will be using UV light to disinfect personal protective equipment like goggles, face shields, and other hard-surface items. They are also investigating whether they can use the same technology on masks so that they can be used repeatedly under current shortage conditions.
Many of our customers have been identified as Critical Infrastructure Business and have identified D+M Metal Products as an essential supplier which provides us with the same status. We are very busy at the current time filling orders from companies that need fabricated parts for medical equipment, air purification devices, and other manufactured products. We are communicating to our workers what to do to maintain hygiene and safety and taking measures to protect them so that they can do their jobs.
We know that the pandemic will not last forever, and the entire economy, including manufacturing, will go back to a more normal state. If you are a current customer or need fabricated parts, please contact us about your needs. We know that there are challenges now and will be more later, and we want to work with you and make sure we know your situation. Building and maintaining relationships with our customers, suppliers, and workers is part of our mission, and it’s how we do business.
To everyone out there doing their part to fight the coronavirus pandemic, stay safe and be well. Our best wishes go out to you and your loved ones.
There has been a lot of talk lately about the shortage of workers in the skilled trades and how that will affect our home state of Michigan (and the nation) moving forward. People have proposed many different solutions, but one way to promote the future of manufacturing and the trades is to go directly to that future. This is why D+M Metal Products opens our doors for school tours. We like to take these opportunities to show kids the interesting work we do and to tell them there are opportunities for successful careers outside of the usual college track.
The deficit between the number of necessary Michigan workers in skilled trade positions and the number expected to go into these fields is approximately half a million by 2026. Last year the State of Michigan set aside $3 million in order to address this problem, announcing the state’s largest advertising campaign dedicated to raising awareness of this problem. Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist stated, “We want to really invest in this heavily because there is a big gap to fill. We think that presents an opportunity. There are a lot of talented, hard working people in Michigan and we want to make sure they know that there’s a pathway for them to have a high wage and high quality career here.”
One reason that high school kids are not choosing the trades is that most of them are under the impression that college and career success are intertwined. For years, students have been told that college is the only way to have a successful, enjoyable, lucrative career. As a result, many take that career path without fully exploring other ones.
Manufacturing is no longer just the line work that automotive workers did, beginning with Henry Ford’s factory and continuing on to create the success of the Big Three. Automation has revolutionized many industries including automotive. Now employers are looking for workers who can code and who are comfortable with information technology as well as those who want to learn useful skills.
The good news for students who decide to look into the trades is that most do not require the same training investment as a four-year degree, but they pay 45% more than the median income in Michigan. It’s no secret that Millennials are struggling to achieve financial independence with the loads of student debt they have acquired from going to college. Many do not find a lucrative job after graduation either. The trades offer better pay and less debt. That sounds like a winning combination.
Still, employers who hire skilled workers need to make the effort to educate our young people about what these jobs entail. Recently groups from two local schools, Grand Rapids Christian and Holy Trinity, toured D+M Metal. We were able to show them our equipment, how our tradesmen operate it, and what we produce for our customers.
We employ welders and machinists in our company. Both of these require training after high school. A welder can take classes at Grand Rapids Community College and work for us part-time while going to school, eventually working up to a certified weld position. An entry-level machine operator can become a highly skilled operator and move up to become a lead person, a quality control inspector, and eventually a manager. We also have skilled machine setup operators for CNC press brake and CNC laser and turret press. These positions utilize similar job requirements and mental aptitude but are typically trained on the job.
At D+M Metal we hire young people when they graduate from high school and offer them the opportunity to get their training while they work for us if they are interested in doing more. We are seeking motivated and proactive workers who want to improve their skill sets and advance in the trades. We invest in them and they help us improve our company. It’s a win for everyone.
If you are a student who is interested in learning more about metal fabrication, please contact us. We also welcome inquiries from local schools or groups. Michigan needs skilled workers to make our state better. Is a welding or machinist career in your future?
When you are considering which metal fabrication supplier to use for your company’s needs, relationship building may not be one of the first requirements on your list of priorities to check. Stop to think about it, though. All companies run on the strength of their relationships with their workers, their suppliers, and their customers, so building and reinforcing them is extremely important. This is why D+M Metal Products’ core values center on developing our people and building relationships and why this will be a main focus for us in 2020.
D+M Metal’s mission statement reads: “Our mission is to develop and use our talents and resources to provide superior products and services while establishing long-term relationships with our customers, suppliers, and community.”
Building strong relationships starts from within our company. Work doesn’t just consist of punching the clock coming in and out because people aren’t robots. It can be a challenge to meet our customers’ needs, the needs of the company as a whole, and the needs of the individual people who work for us, but in doing so, our business grows stronger and becomes better over time.
One of the ways we accomplish this is to invest in training our workers and spend time fully incorporating them into our work environment. We view the success of our workers as a partnership. They work hard, and we support them in their individual career goals. They invest their time and abilities in our company, and we invest in tuition to get them further training.
We also invest time in community building. As a society, we’re all experiencing pretty rapid change, and that directly impacts the workforce. In a world where people are more and more on their phones, it can be hard to build and nurture healthy, respectful relationships at work, including vital mentoring relationships. Communication and interaction are key to increased productivity, quality output, and job satisfaction, though. We are choosing to focus on creating an environment where teamwork is emphasized and rewarded.
Without our suppliers, we cannot produce anything for our customers. We might as well not open our doors. Our suppliers do more than just drop off aluminum and steel, after all. They are excellent sources of information about the industry and even advice for how to navigate fluctuations within the metal fabrication business. Through clear communication, reasonable expectations, and trustworthiness in our business dealings, we work to keep our relationships with our suppliers in good shape.
The most important way to build relationships with customers - not just to attract new customers - is to do what you say you will do. When customers see that you can deliver what they ask for on time, with quality workmanship, at the price quoted, they are willing to trust you with more work. Trust is the oil that enables every interaction to run smoothly without unnecessary friction.
At D+M Metal, when we say we will call you, we call. When we say we will follow up with more information, we will follow up. We stand by our products and guarantee their quality. We are willing to go the extra mile to make sure that the relationships we have created with the companies we do business with continue.
We believe doing quality work and conducting business honestly is worthwhile, but we are also happy when our customers let others know that their experience with us has been positive. Word-of-mouth reviews are so much more valuable in this business than online reviews because they can’t be easily manipulated. They are based on authentic interactions over time and long-term customer satisfaction.
Ultimately, building relationships with our workers, our suppliers, and our customers is about optimizing satisfaction for everyone, including us. We like knowing the people we do business with. We enjoy getting to know people over time and to trust and depend on them more and more as well. Making relationships about more than financial transactions is important to us, and that’s why it’s in our mission statement and our goals for doing business in 2020.
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