MMT Chats: The Cavalier Tool Army Takes on COVID-19
MoldMaking Technology Editorial Director Christina Fuges chats with Brian Bendig, Tim Galbraith and Brenda Quint of Cavalier Tool & Manufacturing about what it took to take on a hand sanitizer dispenser mold project to help fight COVID-19, as well as the impact of the virus on its business and people.
leadership, communication and partnership
Today my guests are Brian Bendig, Tim Galbraith and Brenda Quint with Cavalier Tool & Manufacturing who have been part of a project related to fighting the virus.
Christina Fuges Cavalier is known for quality mid- to large-size molds for recreational vehicles, trucks and commercial products so I think it's interesting that you took on a project that you don't typically work on. Brian, why don't you talk a little bit about how this hand sanitizer dispenser mold project came about.
Brian Bendig Sure, so we've always been known to take on different product types. You know, it's easy to talk automotive, but we've carved out a niche and many different product lines. This particular one was kind of odd. We were recommended to the end-user by 3 or 4 of our competitors. So, it started up in Toronto and that they had reached out to a tool shop in Toronto and they said, Hey, look, you know, we don't have the speed. You should call this guy Cavalier. So, it was neat that other guys propped us up and said, Go to Cavalier.
Christina Fuges That doesn't surprise me because the mold manufacturing industry repeatedly comes together like that, just to get it done. I saw this story all over social media. Cavalier has really kicked it up on social media. Who wants to talk a little bit about that promotion, and how do you see the value of social media, especially in times like this?
Tim Galbraith Social media, we feel is a pretty key part of finding out what people think of us and getting our message out. We are a big tool shop. We do big tools, but we needed people to know that we're willing to pivot. We're willing to accommodate what's needed to fight the ongoing pandemic.
Christina Fuges Who in the shop, the company is responsible for the social?
Tim Galbraith We take some guidance from someone who has educated us on the best ways to use social media, but we're all active on different platforms when.
Christina Fuges You're doing a great job. And I'm hoping after all of this, I see more moldmakers on social media platforms. Let's go over this project and how it differs, or is similar to what you already do, in terms of lead times, the complexity, working with suppliers because everything was, pretty much due yesterday, right?
Brian We're very well suited for that type of project. We've had a lot of equipment and a lot of processes in-house that allow us to be very quick. So the last number of years we've always been focused on line was speed. Speed to market, being able to do something faster than the guy next door. So with our levels of automation, in different things, to us, I mean, to myself, it was a good fit. The molds themselves aren't overly complex. They're smaller than we traditionally do, but this isn't really judged on the complexity. It was all about the speed. So the feedback I got is we're roughly two times faster than the next closest quote and we committed to try-out. So we're fortunate that we've got a lot of equipment.
We have guys on staff. We can run 24/7. We very quickly got designs. I believe it was Friday morning. We worked all weekend long Saturday, Sunday by Monday. We had a design review. We had steel in the building Monday afternoon and we were cutting that fast. We have a great relationship with our suppliers. We have a great relationship with our employees. We were able to pull a quick army together and attack this thing very quickly, so I just feel as though we're well suited for the project.
It's the right thing to do regardless of the costs, regardless of the pain and discomfort. It's important, and I'm proud to be part of that.
Christina Fuges So I did read somewhere that you fast, tracked some of your usual process steps. What does that actually mean?
Brian Some of the things we changed, you know, it wouldn't be common for a designer to work, you know, a 10, 12 hours Saturday, or 12, you know, our Sunday, workday. We're fortunate that we've got a good rapport with the people, and we've got a great team; guys put their hands up, we work all weekend long. Whatever it takes. We called in a few favors. We're fortunate that we have a good relationship with a lot of our suppliers and they were willing to help, we put her hand up and say, hey, guys, we need some help, and everyone put their hand up and walked right with us.
Christina Fuges I was doing a story with another tool shop and then two suppliers contacted me, and said, Hey, they couldn't build that mold without our steel, and without our mold components. Technology suppliers are coming together to help. It's the uplifting part of all this chaos.
Brian It's the right thing to do regardless of the costs, regardless of the pain and discomfort. It's important, and I'm proud to be part of that.
Tim Galbraith I can just add something to this, right off the bat. And Brian, I talked on Friday when, when the inquiry came in, we reached out as to senior levels of management to our supply chain, the manifold people, the steel suppliers, and reached out to their executive management. And said, hey, this is what we've got coming. Are you willing to be a partner and commit your people to the partnership? And without, with no exceptions, they all said yes. And that way by the Saturday and Sunday, when Sunday was a four-hour design review meeting in the afternoon, with internally, And with a bunch of people, we were ready to go Monday morning saying, OK, here's your order. What time tomorrow will you have it? Or Wednesday or Thursday? They're committing today's turnaround on components that normally we wait weeks for.
Christina Fuges It's incredible. What would you say was the number-one, what was tested the most during this project?
Brian More focus! I think the word is focused because whatever's going on, the medical tools are the priority. Someone's loading the machine and they realize, hey, look, that's the medical tool. Other guys would jump in and help them load the machine. It's the priority. Everyone in the building knew that was of the highest level of importance at that time, but everyone wanted to do it. We had zero pushback. Nobody didn't want to jump in. In fact, we had I probably, 3 or 4 employees come up say, I want to be part of this. What can I do? How can I jump in? Is there something else that I can do? It's the team and they're just a great bunch of guys and girls. We get it done, they want to be part of it.
Christina Fuges So, did you learn anything that you didn't know about your people or your process through this project? Anything, surprise you?
Brian I think we're that kind of shop, we attract that type of people and their darned good guys and girls And they wanted that. It's our culture, it's who we are.
Tim Galbraith The right word, Christina, I think is “validate”. It validated our expectations and what our team means to each other. I think it was validated during this time of crisis is a good way to phrase it.
Christina Fuges So, Brenda, was there anything different about how you manage the team under that type of pressure? We'll call it because there's an urgency and just the cause behind this, right, the mission.
Brenda Quint Again, it's the team themselves that made themselves available. They were ready at the drop of a dime to do what they needed to do, so they were there for the meetings. They were on time. And they worked as hard as they couldn't as fast as they could to get this done.
Christina Fuges How has the virus impacted Cavalier?
Brenda Quint Well, we're saying business as usual, although it's not business as usual. We have as many people as possible working from home. We started that with design and can first and that kind of that transition was pretty much seamless. From there, we posted daily communications to our staff almost daily, to let them know what was going on. There are so many announcements from different levels of government that are out there Was starting to spread a little bit of panic, so we wanted to let our employees know that we were listening to them, and we were implementing what we could to help keep them safe. We listened to them. When our toolmaking leader suggested that the rest of us in the office should work from home as well to reduce the number of people they were coming into contact with each other daily, we took that information to heart. And here we are--all working from home.
Done what most shops are doing. We added some additional cleanings activities through the shop. We've eliminated the visitors to the shop. We've asked employees to self quarantine if they traveled outside of Canada. We implemented some documentation. So if we did have to have a visitor come in, they were screened first. They had to be approved before they could come into the building. Same with employees. And then last week, we implemented a temperature check so that the employees that are still in the shop, yeah, they can feel safe that at least coming into the shop, their co-workers are, you know, it gives them a little bit of comfort. Comfort, knowing we're trying to do as much as we can to help them and keep them safe, that's.
Christina Fuges So can you talk a little bit about how the virus has an impact? Whether it's your productivity? Obviously, supply chain issues, inventory, service, you're getting how has cavalier binning impacted?
Brian I mean, it's, it's crazy. So somebody said, hey, look, I'd like to get back to normal and my response was the normal is no longer normal. There is no normal. It's up to us to create the new normal. Everything that was commonplace seems to be flipped upside down right now. You know, at the same time or are we are we pushing forward? Are we doing the right things? Of course we are. But like you said, I mean, supplies aren't coming in. People aren't in the building, shifts have been changed. People programming from home. I mean, normally, we throw programs on the server and guys pull them down. That whole process has changed. We've got one guy that's managing this data as a single point. I went from 25 machines to 10, for example.
What you do to things changes: how you get blocks in front of the machines are different. How we set things up, as there's more of a team effort that goes into things because it's gotta be faster. So if a machine is running, we'll send guys to the other end of the bay and they're setting up. Two guys on one machine. It is the Cavalier Army. You may be asked to run five as an example. The assembler is really spread out nobody is beside anyone. Before, if you had a large mold, you might have 2 or 3 people on that mold. Now there's only one. We do not have people on top of other people. As they say, everyone is spread out. There's a couple of meters between everyone. So it's just different. Everything that was normal isn't normal.
So it's just different. Everything that was normal isn't normal.
Christina Fuges Does that slow it down?
Brian In some instances, yes. The big molds where there's a lot of assembly and fitting. We typically attack it. We'd throw more people on it. I mean, we still have shifts that. We can go around the clock. But you just don't have the manpower as you as you might now and we don't have 30 of those in the building at this time. So it's not the end of the world. It does slow you down a little bit more focus, I know.
Christina Fuges You're hitting your delivery dates?
Brian Yes. And the volume still there, because we did have some stuff on hold, We suspect that a week or two, it'll come back. But for right now, we've shifted in the other stuff, and certainly made the medical the priority.
Christina Fuges So what are you hearing from your customers?
Tim Galbraith We're hearing different things from different customers, and Christina, it goes across the board. From we will work with you in whatever we need to do to satisfy everybody's needs, to, I don't care. I want my tools on time, and what can you do for me and compression timing? And believe it or not, there are still people out there that are, or are, not, don't seem to be aware of what's going on. As Brian said, in that a number of people have had the close of our customer base who had to close through, mandates that alleviate some deadlines for us and clear the tractor, or some other things move forward. There are cautiously optimistic. I can tell you that we had our best month in sales yet ever in March and not do anything to do with a coronavirus or medical. It's something things we've been working on for awhile, so I think we're gonna see business continue. Our customers are still maintaining a long range view. That business will get back to normal and sometime towards the middle or end of the year, we're expecting to be back in production. So they're going to need the molds they're looking for.
Christina Fuges Are you learning something new in terms of how could be doing things better?
Brian Data transfer. Change how we manage data. That will never be the way it was.
Tim Galbraith Meetings are going to be a big thing in the future, I think. We've all been a little shy on them in the past. We all do them now. I spend, probably 75% of my day doing exactly what we're doing here, and it's a very efficient way of communicating in times of crisis and maybe that will spill over into times of goodwill.
Christina Fuges Do you think you communicate more now?
Tim Galbraith Well, I would say yes.
When you provide leadership and direction, people are more likely to help you get there. It's communication. It's important in times like this to really tell people where you're going, why you want to get there, and what's expected of them to help you get there.
Christina Fuges So, are you working on any other COVID-related projects right now?
Tim Galbraith Though, I'll be honest, there's more than we can handle. A lot in the planning stages. I was on the phone actually until nine 30th night, talking to companies who are anxious to try to do their part as well. Again, through our use of social media, names got out there as someone who's willing to step up and help. So, what we're fielding calls all day, we're vetting our opportunities and I see opportunities because it's dirty not our wheelhouse, but we're there to do what we can do. Definitely more in the pipeline. Anecdotally, I will tell you that the local tryout shop yesterday. Just let you know, we're not the only ones, is, is obviously down in business. But they were predicting, they said that for the next couple of weeks. All the small presses are booked solid with tool shops that have jumped on and are helping with the covert battle and a lot of small medical tools will be trying out in record time. So, we're not the only ones doing it, but we're happy to help where we can there's lots of projects out there.
Christina Fuges Do you think there's going to be a real forced movement for people to buy locally?
Tim Galbraith I'd be surprised if anybody in the disaster recovery plan a global pandemic, So, this is really thrown a monkey wrench into everybody's operations, and you're correct supply chain partners are probably the worst it because they relied heavily on the offshore markets. I think it'll change and absolutely there will be. I think essential services will be redefined rather than just tanks and guns and airplanes and stuff that will now include medical because we've had a taste of what it's like to be in a situation that we're in now. So yeah, it'll change. Hopefully, it'll change for the better. I think we have to get over the appetite for low prices. That will be the biggest hurdle to overcome. And once people can understand that security is as important or more important sometimes than low prices, I think that'll help in the re-assuring upwards, so is there opportunity for that? Absolutely, I just hope that we don't get industrial amnesia six months from now and go back to the way we used to be.
Christina Fuges What is your number one concern about the coronavirus right now?
Brian When will it end. Yeah, is it three weeks, three months? How far away are we going with this? For me, I'm a guy that travels a lot for the business, and I've been grounded. I haven't really done significant traveling yet this year. Tuesday of this week, I was on my way to India to go see the facility over there.
Christina Fuges So, let's end on a positive note. Do you have any tips for other shops?
Tim Galbraith Be friends with your neighbors. I have been part of a number of taskforces over the last couple of weeks with people who I don't normally interface with, and we're sharing ideas. I'm online with a group every day. And we're sharing ideas and resources, and how tos and brainstorming. There's a lot of resources out there. We need to collaborate a little bit more. And I think, if anything, this has put us together. Partnerships will endure through this coronavirus into the good times as well and we'll all be stronger when we come out of it.
Brenda Quint Stay strong, and be calm for your employees so they can feel a little bit relaxed.
Christina Fuges Brian, I'll give you the last word.
Brian Bendig So, I attended a seminar a few years ag with George Bush that was all about leaders, entrepreneurs, business owners and managers. And at the end of his fireside chat, they'd asked, What would you give to somebody, or what would you tell these people in the room? And he thought about it for a second and said, “You know, I've run armies, I've run countries. I've run states. Nobody wants to follow somebody who doesn't know where they're going. When you provide leadership and direction, people are more likely to help you get there.
So to echo what Brenda said, it's communication. It's important in times like this to really tell people where you're going, why you want to get there, and what's expected of them to help you get there.
Christina Fuges Well, that's about it. I want to thank you, Brian, Tim and Brenda. And for everything moldmaking, visit moldmakingtechnology.com. Stay safe and healthy.
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