The pandemic has brought many people around to that longstanding means of mobility and exercise, the bicycle. And for Kent International, a bicycle manufacturer with facilities in New Jersey and South Carolina, that has meant busy days as it works to meet newfound demand.
We checked in with Chairman and CEO Arnold Kamler, who told us all about the company’s response to high demand and its stringent requirements for worker safety.
The numbers: According to a study by market researcher NPD Group, demand for bicycles (and related items, like helmets) increased by 75 percent in April, compared to last year. At Kent International, they noticed, Kamler says.
- During the peak demand period in April and May, Kent’s customers were selling between 12,000 and 15,000 bicycles per day, representing more sales than they typically see even in the 10 days before Christmas.
Strained supplies: Some of that demand has led to challenges, Kamler notes. With bicycles flying off the bike racks, Kent has put limits on what its biggest customers can order. A few months ago, one customer put in a request for about a million bicycles, to be shipped in one week—an order generated by algorithms and just not possible to fulfill, says Kamler. Meanwhile:
- The pandemic has interrupted global supply chains, making it difficult for Kent to get some required parts.
- It has also hampered transportation, preventing Kent from sourcing all the trucks required to deliver its products, particularly in the Los Angeles commercial zone.
Safety procedures: Kamler says the company is putting employees first, by designing rigorous standards to reduce risk and prevent COVID-19 transmission.
- Gloves and masks are mandatory in Kent’s facilities. (Protective eyewear was already a requirement.)
- Temperature monitors throughout the building are used to check for fevers.
- More spacing in the facility allows employees to practice social distancing.
- Testing is available at a local hospital, and Kent offers testing leave so that employees who are concerned they might be sick can get checked—even if they have no symptoms.
- Vigorous tracing ensures Kent can alert any employees who might have been exposed to a sick coworker, so they can get tested, too.
The last word: “We have a job to do: to protect our workers,” says Kamler. “We’re treating employees how we would want to be treated, and making sure they stay safe. We’re staying vigilant—because it doesn’t matter that you were perfect from April to June if you get sloppy in July.”