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ForFast CompanysShape of Tomorrow series, were asking business leaders to share their inside perspective on how the COVID-19 era is transforming their industries. Heres whats been lostand what could be gainedin the new world order.
Weve always prioritized human safety and food safety at General Mills, but COVID has tested us like never before. As China started getting exposed to this and we began to understand what the government was mandating, we became early adopters here of things like temperature checks, mask use, social distancing. We had our masks and thermometers on order before the CDC said we should, because wed learned enough and knew that taking these precautions wouldnt hurt.
The food industry doesnt move all that quickly. There are swings and shifts in categories as things come in and out, but to a large extent that is predictable. What you dont see is governments locking their people in, businesses being closed, entire countries working from home. That ends up drawing such an incredible demand shift that its something you just cant plan for.
People who used to get their breakfast on the go, eat their lunch at work or at schoolsuddenly they were eating at home. You dont build for this. What used to be done on a monthly basis started happening on a daily basis. We had to build new tools, new rituals, and new processes in order to navigate what used to be a very predictable business into [one] that was changing, sometimes, by the hour. People started pantry loading with things that are shelf-stable and they could count on. Our soup business went up dramatically, as did Old El Paso, Pillsbury doughs, Betty Crocker, even Gold Medal Flour. There were months of 300% demand surges. We depleted our inventories quite quickly. On an ongoing basis, the demand surge has been 10-30% incremental business across our categories.
You cant build that much extra capacity. So the first thing we did was simplify. We used to stock 90 SKUs of Progresso Soups. We looked at it and said, We could be more efficient, make more cases per day, feed more people if we did only 50 SKUs. We simplified our portfolio, and that allowed them to ramp up their production accordingly. For the first three months of the pandemic in the U.S., we made 10-15% more cases in our manufacturing plants than we would have pre-pandemic. Over time, we had to bring on extra capacity, because you dont build supply chains to spin that way in the food businessits not like 30% more people will suddenly join the population.
We thought we were in a marathon, and then it turned out we were in an Ironman.General Mills' chief supply chain officer John ChurchPeople are eating the same amount of calories as always, just in different ways. Early on in the pandemic, there were stories about farmers milking cows and flushing it down the drainthat was because they were used to making butter in 50 lb. blocks that went to restaurants, and there wasnt enough 1 lb. tub capacity to put it into stores. We had to go to some of our suppliers and say, Were going to be expecting to run 20% more. How can we get more bags from you? How can we get more ingredients from you? Can you add more capacity for us? And then we had to reach out to people who could make product on our behalf, external contract manufacturers. And we had to do that quickly: A process that would normally take six months had to be done in six weeks to react to the demand.
At our manufacturing plants, weve been acting as though were still in the first wave. We anticipated a second wave, like the experts did, so we didnt want to take our foot off the gas or relax procedures. After the panic buying, we continue to have strong demand across most of our categories. The real unknown is, how long is this going to last? I [was] on a call the other day and said, We thought we were in a marathon, and then it turned out we were in an Ironman, and we may have to double down.
Matthew Putman is the cofounder and CEO of Nanotronics, a technology company that uses AI, automation, and imaging to improve manufacturing. The technology is used in factories worldwide, in industries such as electronics, healthcare, and aerospace.
Nanotronics does a mix of manufacturing our own things and working with other companies. The idea is to improve factory processes using the latest [in] artificial intelligence. We enable customers to make products with faster iteration and designs, and improve their yields, all of which ultimately brings the costs down. So if you want your factory to have better yields, or if you want it to consume less energy, we put the AI onto the factory floor itself. Sometimes its guiding humans on the factory floor, or sometimes its interacting with factory robotics that are making changes in real time in order to make a product better.
If there is a race to have a vaccine, understanding how to improve the yields of genomic sequencing, for instance, is hugely important.Nanotronics cofounder and CEO Matthew PutmanIn our own factories, where we make super-high-resolution microscopes, we have our top AI engineers and optics and electrical engineers looking down onto the factory floor, trying their algorithms and finding ways to optimize the process, finding ways that humans can work with machines. Those lessons [are then applied to] companies making next-generation electronics, semiconductors, and power-efficient devices, chemical companies, even companies that do genome sequencing.
COVID-19 has made many of the projects that weve been working on for many years incredibly urgent. If there is a race to have a vaccine, understanding how to improve the yields of genomic sequencing, for instance, is hugely important. We have to produce our equipment faster and collaborate with our customers faster. We work with customers who make UV lights that work in ambient rooms without damaging your skin. We work with companies that make N95 masks. We can use AI to improve yields and have self-correcting action, and take things that would have been very expensive in the past and make them less expensive. So weve been focusing on those types of customers and those products. We also started a subsidiary and are manufacturing BiPAP devices, which are inexpensive, noninvasive ventilation devices, for use around the world. I never thought of us as a pandemic response company, but a lot of it applies because intelligent factories can scale and create products that people need, quickly.
COVID has made consumers think about their homes a lot more. So demand has not slowed at all. Its increased. In the early days, there was a lot of concern because we source from the developing world, from areas that have challenges from a human health and safety standpoint to begin with, and we have factories with thousands of workers who are entirely dependent on Boll & Branch for their living. The first thing we wanted to do was ensure that we made them feel safe. We started paying for goods early, because we expected that in India, where we source most of our products, there was going to be a shutdown coming.
With our ethical standards, there are a very small number of factories in the world that we can use. Fortunately weve done contingency planning.Boll & Branch founder and CEO Scott TannenWe were clear with our factories that this is a time that we had to live our values. We partnered with Fair Trade to make sure that safety standards were met or exceeded. Before COVID, 80% of our production was in India. Unlike most textile companies, were involved in the sourcing of the raw material, so its not just working with a finishing factory. We have multiple supply chains within India. We make our pillows and duvet inserts in Ohio, and our mattresses are made in Florida, Texas, and Phoenix.
We had to think about the timing of various shutdowns and restrictions. India was slower to have a rise in cases relative to the U.S., so in the U.S. we front-loaded the production to make sure if there was a shutdown, we didnt cut off our supply chain. For our overseas operations, we actually had to diversify regionally as a result of COVID. Weve brought on board manufacturing in Portugal, Turkey, Pakistan, and other countries. With our ethical standards, there are a very small number of factories in the world that we can use. Fortunately weve done contingency planning, and we knew [alternative locations we could begin using] and started auditing them and making sure they met our standards.
India shut down for six weeks. We had been planning as early as February that we could see some supply chain disruptions. So we started leaning in with our suppliers and ramping them up to full-speed, holiday-level production early in the year. We were able to take the inventory risk with the assumption that one of two things was going to happen: If we have more inventory on hand and we dont experience a shutdown, thats a huge advantage for us, and if we do have a shutdown, were in a position where we can still service our customers. [When shutdowns did happen], we didnt have a single order we couldnt fulfill. Now all of our factories are now online and weve onboarded a number of suppliers in new regions, which gives us the capability that if we see a phase 2 shutdown, the team really understands how to shift and move things.
Mill Supplies store locations Fort Wayne, IN - 800-589-5353 5105 Industrial Rd Fort Wayne, IN 46825 Monday-Thursday 6:30AM to 6:00PM Friday 6:30AM to 5:00PM Saturday & Sunday Closed View Larger Map Indianapolis, IN - 317-545-6904 7522 Pendleton Pike Indianapolis, IN 46226 Monday-Friday 7:00AM to 5:00PM View Larger Map
For over 65 years Miles Supply has provided products and services for the stone industry and construction trades. As a family business, we are proud - not only to provide high-quality products but that we build relationships and offer exceptional service. As a prominent industrial equipment supplier we feature five locations in VT, GA, PA, MN, TX, and sales staff in IL.
End mills have cutting edges on their nose and sides that remove material from the surface of a piece of stock. They are used on computer numerical control (CNC) or manual milling machines to create parts with complex shapes and features such as slots, pockets, and grooves. Each end mill has flutes on its cutting head that carry the removed material away from the workpiece to prevent damage to the end mill or workpiece. Ball end mills create a round-bottomed groove in a workpiece. Square end mills cut a flat-bottomed groove with 90 inside corners. Corner-chamfer and corner-radius end mills make a flat-bottomed groove with chamfered or rounded inside corners. Chamfer mills are used to chamfer or bevel the edges of a workpiece. Corner-rounding end mills create a rounded outside edge on a workpiece. Drill mills have a nose with a pointed tip that can drill holes or create angled features in a workpiece.
Are you an extrusion die maker, aluminum extruder or mold shop in need of special tooling? Youve come to the right place. For more than 60 years, Markusic Industrial Supply has been a stocking distributor of carbide end mills, carbide burrs, drills, taps, HHS end mills, tapered end mills, diamond files, needle files, EDM wire, shop rolls, cartridge rolls, dowel pins, carbide inserts and tool holders.