One project leads to another

Mike Milbrandt
Chandler Industries of Montevideo has been working hard in the fight agaisnt COVID-19 by continuing to produce parts for much needed ventilators.

One project leads to another, as the saying goes, and although Chandler Industries has filled one customer’s order for parts used to make ventilators, their work continues as they have received another large order for different ventilator parts. Once again, the Montevideo plant finds itself in the thick of things in the fight against COVID-19.

Don Alter, President of Chandler Industries, revealed some data about the company’s recent production of ventilator parts. He said: “In the 12 months prior to COVID-19, we shipped a total of about 25,000 units to one of our customers for use in ventilators. In the past five months, from April until now, we’ve shipped over 150,000 parts, which represents a 15 times increase in production!”

Ramping up production to meet demand was challenging, even though they had been producing those parts. Denise Bangsund, General Manager of the Montevideo plant, said: “In order to meet the increased demand for those parts, we hired ten new employees at our plant.”

“In addition to the ten employees that were hired in Montevideo,” said Alter, two additional employees were hired at our Long Prairie site. We also utilized all of our other employees to work on this project.”

With everyone concentrating all their efforts toward this one project, Chandler was able to quickly and efficiently fill the order for ventilator parts. “We recently concluded that project; we’ve shipped everything the customer needed,” Alter said. “In the meantime, that same customer has needed our help with eight new products which we have never produce for them before. We are now in the process of supplying that customer with these eight new parts, which are being produced at all of our Chandler sites, including Montevideo.”

According to Alter, those parts are parts that the customer was producing internally, but they turned to Chandler for the needed additional capacity. “These parts are for a different model of ventilator. It’s like Ford makes different models of vehicles; this company produces different models of ventilators. They make a range of ventilators from basic to ones with all the bells and whistles!”

Although Chandler did not design the actual parts as they were already in production, Chandler did have to design new manufacturing processes in order to produce the parts. Alter said: “Once the process was designed and the first parts were made, we had to submit samples to be certified in order for us to produce these parts. Once they were certified, we received authorization to go into production.”

Alter said that the authorization process moved very quickly, taking only two weeks. “Normally, it would take three or four months for that process to take place,” he said.

The project Chandler is working on currently has been moving along nicely. “We began this project in August,” said Alter, “and everything will be shipped by the end of October.”

“We actually finished our parts for the new ventilators this past week,” added Bangsund.

Although Chandler had been producing ventilator parts at its Montevideo plant for the past 10 years, the COVID-19 pandemic created an urgent need for those parts. Alter said: “With the COVID surge, we really had to increase our capacity to produce those parts.”

The experience of producing life-saving ventilator parts in response to a pandemic has provided some take-aways for Alter. He said: “The biggest thing I can take from this experience is that Chandler has the resiliency and ability to do what was asked of us, even though at the time, it seemed like an insurmountable challenge. We were able to meet the challenge, and we did it very well!”

As a result, the customer who ordered that parts has been very pleased with Chandler’s ability to get the job done. “The customer has repeatedly told us that, of all their suppliers, we’re among the best, if not the best,” said Alter. We’re very proud of that, and we’re very proud of the Chandler team!”

Alter is very proud of the Montevideo team. He said: “The job that Denise and her team did to manage everything, and keep track of it all while keeping everyone busy, it was a phenomenal job. I’m so proud of them!”

“From our standpoint,” said Bangsund, “The team here at Monte, all the way from top to bottom, we held meetings and talked about the project. Everyone realized the importance of the project, and even though there was some apprehension and anxiety over COVID, the team moved forward. They really jumped on board.”

In order to produce the new parts, Chandler had to bring in new equipment and employees had to receive training. “People had to learn a lot of new things in a very short period of time,” Bangsund said.

Chandler continues to move forward in the production of the latest round of parts. “It is a cohesive effort by everyone at Chandler,” said Bangsund, “and everyone here at our plant is doing an amazing job! It is something we’ve wrapped our hearts and minds around, and everyone is taking it seriously.”

Production of these parts has been a multi-site team effort. “From top to bottom, our other locations were just as amazing; they really supported what we needed, and were very helpful and responsive. We really appreciate them as well,” said Bangsund.

Bangsund has been very touched by the outpouring of support that Chandler has received from the community. She said: “Community support has been great here. Everyone we talk to were so supportive and interested in what we have been doing, and they are proud of Chandler and proud that we are in Montevideo. Knowing the community supports us has been really encouraging to all of us!”

If demand for ventilators were to increase with a surge in COVID-19 cases, Chandler is well-positioned to meet the demand. Alter said: “We’ve learned a lot of lessons with this experience, and if demand increases, we are better positioned to ramp up to meet the need; we know how to do it.”