Scanfil is Preparing for a ‘New Tomorrow’
Scanfil made strategic business moves and deployed safety measures in its Georgia plant before the pandemic hit the U.S. to protect its employees and supply chain.
As a contract manufacturer and system supplier with plants throughout the world, Scanfil Inc. says it has been well positioned to handle the coronavirus pandemic thanks to its global reach and strategic approach to doing business. “Having plants in China gave us a preview of what was going to happen [here] and put us in a position to deploy that strategy worldwide before the various continents were infected,” says Orlando Martinez, managing director, USA.
In January, Buford, Ga.-based Scanfil began working with its suppliers to ensure it had an appropriate pipeline and buffer of material. The company acted proactively so that when its suppliers experienced shutdowns, Scanfil was still in a position to provide its customers with products and services.
“We have a global supply chain organization that takes the pulse of each factory, as well as the supply chain, including the carriers,” Global Business Development Manager Jaron Cherry says. “We have daily and weekly communication regarding COVID-19, including how it’s affecting us, our customers and our suppliers. There’s a lot of communication happening.”
Scanfil was established in Sievi, Finland, in 1976 as a manufacturer of sheet metal mechanics for the electronics industry. Over the years, it grew into an international contract manufacturer and system supplier. In 2015, Scanfil acquired PartnerTech whom opened its Atlanta facility in 2000.
Today, Scanfil offers product development, electronics manufacturing, production, reverse logistics and supply chain management of its customers’ products to allow them to focus on growth, research and development to advance their own businesses. The company has expanded its customer base into new markets, including energy and automation, communication, medical technology and life science, consumer applications and industrial.
“We attribute our success to a great group management team and corporate structure that I feel focuses on the fundamentals and success in our operations,” Martinez says. “That success in our operation puts us in a position to grow at a very controlled pace with our customers.”
While Scanfil does receive new opportunities and client referrals regularly, a majority of the company’s growth comes from existing clients who want to develop new products and technology. “It’s all based on our ability to build a trustworthy relationship with them,” Martinez emphasizes. “We have a strong strategy, great employees that we consistently and continuously invest in and we wouldn’t be able to do that without our customers and strong supplier base.”
Putting Safety Measures in Place
Scanfil said it had a surge of demand in late January that continued strong through April, but the company noticed some easing into May. “That initial surge from our customers and their distributors put us in a position to increase capacity very quickly in a very strained time with of course a workforce that was very concerned,” Martinez says. “We very quickly adopted best practices from our sister sites in China and Europe where we proactively deployed countermeasures.”
Those best practices included taking people’s temperature, providing face masks and hand sanitizer when it was available. The company quickly increased sanitation measures and pre-quarantined its teams by splitting up break schedules and dividing its main cafeteria into four to segregate each team and minimize contact.
“We implemented these measures so if we were impacted by a COVID-19 case, it was controlled, kept in a specific department and only affecting a specific product line and customer,” Martinez explains. “Knock on wood, we only had one case and very quickly quarantined all the people who came in contact with this gentleman. Thank goodness everything worked out OK and he has fully recovered and is back at work. There have been no additional cases.”
Being proactive and implementing best practices early allowed Scanfil to “stay two to three steps ahead and put us in a position to be there for our customers while also being there for our employees and keeping them working, and working safe,” Martinez says.
To ensure employees were trained and adhering to safety measures in the workplace, Scanfil says it has been in constant communication, but its plant meetings look a little different today. Rather than holding one plant-wide meeting, the leadership team now meets with teams of 15 to 25 people at a time to provide training on personal protective equipment, how it is used and what new protocols are in place, while comforting individuals who have concerns.
“There has been a lot of care and communication; a lot of nurturing,” Martinez says.
Riding the Waves of Demand
Scanfil says production has slowed slightly in some industries after the initial surge it experienced in first-quarter 2020 because the company was able to stock its customers’ and their distributors’ shelves. However, demand continues to surge for products where there is a medical application or benefit during the pandemic.
“We are seeing the effect of the shelter-in-place type orders that have impacted many businesses,” Martinez notes. “We are hoping that change, with having these economies go back online, will happen sooner rather than later so our business will begin to surge again.”
Diversifying its customer base over the years has also contributed to Scanfil’s ability to maintain operations during the pandemic, Cherry says. “Our sales are about 20 percent medical technology and life science globally; we have seen an uptick in some products and a downturn in other sales,” he explains.
“Even in these situations where we have lulls, we set up our business so we can do that and maintain the ability to be flexible and scale with our customers when there are these impacts in demand,” Martinez adds.
Scanfil is seeing an increase in demand for equipment to support the COVID-19 response. Equipment ranges from face shields it has donated to hospitals and organizations to electronics for hospitals. “People have been coming to us for ventilators, breathing machines and air filters which are all devices within our wheelhouse,” Cherry says. “We are seeing a surge in terms of requests and interest from customers.”
“Because of COVID-19, we are seeing an interest in new devices coming to the market that will help with social distancing, communication and sterilization,” Cherry says. “We are seeing some customers and startups that have a new device they want to bring to the market, and we are seeing interest in us there.”
Scanfil is preparing for an increase in customers that now want products made only in the United States. “We are seeing an increase in activity in reshoring these types of medical devices that currently are single-sourced out of Asia or other markets that at this point, require a second look,” Martinez says. “That’s something that’s very interesting to us and we definitely want to be there for our customers who desire and need Made in America and/or Assembled in America products.”
Investing in the Future
Scanfil invests heavily in its operations. This year, the company is focused on creating a smart warehouse within its factory by investing in autonomous intelligent vehicles, cobots and software automation. It also implemented a management execution system that is IoT technology for its devices to communicate systematically to one another, as well as an ERP system to better optimize its operation.
The company is also focusing on how it will continue to operate under “new normal” conditions because of COVID-19. This includes maintaining the health and safety of its employees and strengthening its ability to communicate with customers on all platforms to replace customer visits to its factories.
“At this point, we don’t see there is an end in sight in terms of the modified operating protocols we put in place,” Martinez says. “We are considering today the new tomorrow with respect to how we have geared up to approach the virus and maintained the health of our employees by minimizing contact and keeping our operation as sterile as possible. It’s very important we invest a lot in developing a trusted partnership with our customers and we feel part of that protecting our employees so we can be there when customers need us.”