Manufacturers Are Pivoting Production And Overcoming Obstacles to support COVID-19 Relief Efforts
The swift spread of COVID-19 has created disorder in lives, communities, and businesses worldwide. In the face of shutdowns and furloughs, manufacturers across the country are innovating to minimize the impact the virus has on public health and to limit disruptions to the economy and supply chain.
From mattresses to masks and spirits to sanitizers, this story is just one of many on how Ohio manufacturers engaged in a historic effort to quickly pivot production to make vital equipment and supplies needed for response to the Coronavirus outbreak.
A Manufacturing Success Story During COVID-19
When Brad Measel, his brother Shawn and their partner James Bagford started Stillwrights distillery in 2012, they couldn’t have predicted that eight years later, they’d be converting their distillery into a hand sanitizer production facility. For the first two years, they prepared to take their spirits to market, partnering with Ohio-only farmers to supply their wheat, corn, and barley. Stillwrights’ spirits officially went to market in 2014; launching with its two-year old bourbon whiskey and spiced rum, its two bestsellers to this day.
When COVID-19 turned life upside-down in March, Stillwrights received frequent calls from nursing homes, hospitals, and other medical facilities, and even Wright Patterson Air Force base to make hand sanitizer. At first, the three-man team didn’t see how they could do it and said “no”, thinking they were too small to have an impact like the larger distilleries. But as the calls kept coming in, they changed their minds. Brad Measel says, “We recognized the great need in our community and decided we had to figure it out…we had an obligation to contribute, no matter how small.”
In planning to switch gears from bourbon, moonshine, and rum to hand sanitizer, the owners had to overcome the significant hurdle of converting their stills to make the sanitizer. Whiskey stills are not designed to produce hand sanitizer. But with a little ingenuity and a three-week supply on hand of their top two spirits, they quickly adapted production to redistilling their spirits into 190-proof ethanol and converting it into hand sanitizer.
With the urgent needs for PPE and hand sanitizer, Stillwrights began a 24-hour production for the first time in business, with each of the three owners taking an eight-hour shift. The redistilling process was incredibly slow, making only one gallon of sanitizer an hour. Fighting time wasn’t their only challenge. They quickly realized how in demand bottles were. After attempting to secure the bottles from several suppliers to no avail, Brad thought, “I bet TechSolve can help.”
Stillwrights was already working with TechSolve’s Business Advisory team on Lean production and standard operating procedures planning. So, Brad reached out to TechSolve and said they were pivoting to making hand sanitizer to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic, but they had run into problems sourcing bottles for their finished product. TechSolve was able to connect Stillwrights with Troy Cassel from GK Packaging out of Plain City. GK Packaging provided Stillwrights with 25,000 oz of bottles. Brad says GK Packaging even donated the bottles and paid for the shipping in a spirit of “true partnership” to help fight the pandemic.
As Stillwrights’ sanitizer production winds down and things slowly return to normal, Stillwrights ended up producing 200,000 ounces of hand sanitizer to meet the demand in their community. Stillwrights is just one example of how the manufacturing community continues to step up to the plate or answer the call to switch gears in production.
TechSolve is Here to Help
Nimbleness is important in these chaotic and fast-moving times and TechSolve is here for our manufacturers. Large or small, TechSolve is dedicated to helping manufacturers respond effectively and efficiently through contributing our expertise, networks, and resources to COVID-19 efforts.
TechSolve meets manufacturers where they are, embracing the challenge by assessing and then implementing effective technology and continuous improvement solutions to quickly deliver impact and get manufacturers where they want to go.
COVID-19 Roundtable Discussion for Manufacturing Leadership
June 30th from 9 – 10 AM
Manufacturers count on leadership to guide us through required changes and best practices in the post COVID-19 workplace. In our upcoming COVID-19 series webinar, What’s Next for Manufacturing Leadership, on Tuesday, June 30th, TechSolve will facilitate a candid, roundtable discussion on what’s next for leaders in manufacturing, and how to implement successful strategies to move forward.
About Stillwrights Distillery
Brothers Brad and Shawn Measel and James Bagford founded Stillwrights Distillery in Fairborn, Ohio, barreling its first batch of bourbon in 2012 and going to market in 2014. Using all Ohio grains grown within 60 miles of the distillery, Stillwrights makes small-batch bourbon, whiskeys, moonshine, and rum. They have won several top awards from the American Craft Spirits Association including a gold medal for their Straight Bourbon Whiskey and also a gold medal for their Key Lime Moonshine from the American Distillers Institute. Stillwrights was originally known as Millrights, serving the automotive industry. Their award-winning bourbons, moonshines, and rums are available throughout Ohio in major liquor stores and in several cocktail bars and restaurants. For more information, visit www.stillwrights.com.