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Business Operations

Manufacturer Bears Down on COVID-19

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Photo courtesy of Ketchie Inc. and Mazak

Ketchie, Inc., a woman-owned, North Carolina-based manufacturer with 26 employees, has been supplying a mounted ball bearing product line to distributors since 1975. Now it is a critical part of the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of Ketchie’s bearing products go through a network of industrial distributors that supply hospitals across the United States. One customer in California creates cooling towers, most of which serve medical and health care facilities. Another manufacturer’s housed rubber bearing units supplied by Ketchie will be going into blower units circulating fresh air into New York City hospitals, where the COVID-19 outbreak has been particularly widespread.

As governors around the country consider whether to shutter workplaces or declare them essential, Ketchie, Inc. President Courtney Silver argues that manufacturers at all levels are doing indispensable work.

“It’s all interconnected,” said Silver. “It takes all the big corporations and all these smaller businesses across the country to make it all work.”

Beyond its own need to keep running in order to supply hospitals and other critical infrastructure such as water and sewage plants and power companies, which all experience more stress during a pandemic, Silver emphasized how various components of the supply chain are vital to her manufacturing operation.

“We rely on foundries for castings, because I have to machine that casting to make that bearing housing, and then I rely on bearing manufacturers to make my inserts, and then I assemble and ship it out,” said Silver. “Even the little grease fitting that I would screw into the top of the bearing housing—I need my fastener distributor open and shipping me grease fittings. They seem like the littlest things, but we all have to support each other and continue to work through this time together.”

Ketchie is already following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including ensuring that all employees are working at least six feet apart and frequently sanitizing high-touch areas. As government officials consider whether facilities like hers should continue to operate, Silver hopes to continue doing her part for the COVID-19 response.

“Every small business is in a cash crunch,” said Silver. “I’m confident we can get through this. We’re trying our best to remain positive and take the time to see what we’re learning so we can come out even stronger.”

“We are facing an extraordinary challenge, and America’s manufacturers are helping to lead the charge,” said Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. “Across the country, manufacturing heroes are supporting our infrastructure, strengthening our health care systems and creating the innovations that will save lives. As we have throughout history, in this time of crisis, manufacturers are answering the call.”

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