IFS is reaching out to customers during the COVID-19 pandemic to find out how they’re faring in these turbulent times, and if their IFS systems and support offerings are delivering what they need. As President of our Americas region, I speak with customers every day ranging from manufacturing, to construction, energy, aerospace & defense and service sectors. They are each facing their own challenges, but what unites them is the need to protect their people, and ensure their businesses are sustainable through and after this crisis.
Some of our customers are more exposed to the volatility this pandemic brings to the market than others, and some are doing their part to actively battle the virus, including Sioux Falls (U.S.)-based Raven Industries. The company’s three business units manufacture agricultural spraying equipment, film and sheeting, and technology for use in Aerospace & Defense.
Strong performance during the crisis
Raven’s mission is to utilize its strength in engineering, manufacturing, and technological innovation, to support advancements in precision agriculture, high performance specialty films, and situational awareness markets.
Like so many others, their businesses have felt the impacts of the global pandemic crisis. “For us, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. We have some areas where the impacts aren’t quite as significant, while other areas are more challenged due to economic impacts, like the Energy Market that we serve,” Raven Executive Director of Corporate Culture, Communications and Facilities Margaret Carmody said. “For our applied technology division, this is the busiest time in our year. Growers are in their planting season, and our technology is critical for ensuring agricultural efficiency and helping our end users grow more food for people around the world.”
Answering the call
Raven also finds itself directly involved in delivering personal protective equipment (PPE) that is in short supply among healthcare workers on the front line of battle against COVID-19.
Raven Aerostar is a world leader in the design and manufacture of highly technical lighter-than-air stratospheric platforms and radar perception technology. The company normally does not manufacture PPE, but according to Carmody, they were contacted by a former employee now working for a large healthcare system in Sioux Falls.
“She was aware of our technology in sewing and sealing,” Carmody said. “They are obviously ramping up their supplies of PPE but have a shortage of gowns, and she was wondering if we could do anything to help. Within hours, we had a pattern and then a prototype from our Aerostar division. The hospital group made a couple modifications, and in less than 48 hours from the initial request we were manufacturing these gowns.”
Raven’s roots are with its Aerostar division in making stratospheric balloons for over 60 years. Today, Raven Aerostar’s mission is to connect, protect, and save lives. Combining that sewing and sealing technology with the polymer film and sheeting produced by Raven Engineered Films, they were quickly able to begin PPE production.
Word spread, and Raven started receiving orders for the gowns from other places as well.
“We received Facebook messages from other organizations looking to increase their supply due to challenge of sourcing PPE during times of such high demand,” Carmody said. “It started locally and then was regional. Now we are supplying our Tri-state area and have expanded a little outside of that.”
To date, Raven has received orders for more than 100,000 gowns, more than 40,000 of which have already been fulfilled. Half of those are within their immediate region, and the other half are from major U.S. cities.
People and the community
Carmody said Raven is not looking at manufacturing PPE long term, and do not look at it as a means for margin enhancement.
“Covering our labor cost is important so we can continue to provide people with jobs,” she said. “This will not be a long-term business segment for us. But doing this now helps our team members and our hospitals.”
At IFS, we congratulate Raven on their rapid launch of an emergent product so desperately needed at this time. This is just one example of how IFS’s customer base is using their IFS technologies to adapt business operations to changing needs. We are proud to see our customers exhibiting the responsibility, compassion and agility necessary to get us all through this global pandemic. Watch for more dispatches of IFS customers fighting for us on the front lines!
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