Expedited manufacturing helping to save lives

Jack Money The Oklahoman

TULSA — The Greenheck Group is expediting efforts to meet increased COVID-19-related demands for its air-handling products, and its still-growing manufacturing center in Tulsa is helping.

“As an essential business, we are asking our employees to come to work everyday to make our products,” said Rachel James, director of Greenheck’s Tulsa campus. “They are exhibiting a sense of team purpose that I didn’t believe was possible, until now.

“All of our employees are willing to roll up their sleeves, get to work and help make an impact on this pandemic.”

Greenheck is a Wisconsin-based company that supplies commercial and institutional air movement, air control and conditioning equipment to contractors working on hospitals, major office buildings and data centers.

James and other officials said this month demand from owners of those types of facilities and others climbed as the coronavirus pandemic tightened its grip on the nation.

Hospitals across the U.S., for example, are creating more patient isolation rooms and testing facilities to accommodate increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients.

At the same time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are working with local and state officials to identify places where temporary health care facilities could be established.

In many cities, large convention centers are being selected. In others, closed hotels, vacant office towers and even outdoor parking garages are being considered or already being used.

Contractors working on those types of jobs and others need ventilation, exhaust and damper products designed to heat, cool and move air around large structures to create safe environments for health care workers, their patients and for the equipment that supports data infrastructure enabling the nation to keep communicating.

And, they need it fast.

Expedited business

Greenheck offered a few examples last week on how its operation is responding to expedited requests for its components and systems.

The company built and shipped exhaust equipment in less than two weeks that normally would take months to supply to hospitals in California and Virginia.

It also manufactured and delivered a louver needed to convert space in a south-Florida hospital into an ICU for COVID-19 patients and a damper needed by a medical supply company retrofitting a plant to produce hand sanitizer in under a day.

Data centers, meanwhile, are expediting already-planned jobs to expand their abilities to handle increased demands for services.

And air-handling equipment is in high demand even at already up and operating hospitals as they look for ways to reduce risks, said Tim Kilgore, Greenheck’s president of sales and marketing.

Many are undertaking projects to convert their airflow systems to create negative air pressure inside their buildings and rooms so that potentially contaminated air can be exhausted as efficiently as possible.

“The frontline medical providers are making heroic efforts, obviously, but so are the general, mechanical and electrical contractors that are doing the needed work,” Kilgore said.

Greenheck Group CEO Jim McIntyre said the company is doing well to meet customers needs as it remains focused on the health and safety of its team members, their families and the communities in which it operates.

The company worked to reduce employees’ infection risks by requiring them to observe social distancing and enhanced hygiene and illness response protocols.

It required time gaps between plant shifts so workspaces and common areas can be sanitized, removed all shared vending, coffee and water dispensers from facilities, implemented a remote work program for eligible employees and expanded its absence guidelines to allow employees to miss work without hurting their employment status.

“These times require much from us personally and from our nation’s corporations,” McIntyre said. “This is an opportunity for us to care for each other, our customers, our health care professionals and our country by doing all we can to contribute and stay safe. Our hope at Greenheck Group is that we make decisions and act in ways that live up to our values and the commitments we make to the communities where we operate.”

In Tulsa

Greenheck’s Tulsa facility covers about 115 acres and includes three manufacturing plants with a fourth under construction.

One specializes in building food-preparation ventilation systems for restaurants and institutional customers. The other two build various other types of air handling products as part of the company’s strategy to vary its ability to produce what’s needed in localized markets.

James and Kilgore said the company uses that strategy to both keep customers’ shipping times and costs under control and to make sure its operations are as efficient as possible.

James said production began at Greenheck’s Tulsa facility in November 2018 and that it currently employs about 150 people, with plans to expand to between 500 and 600 over the next five years.

“I am just really proud and am impressed at how few of our employees are choosing to stay home,” Kilgore said. “They are rallying around the cause and delivering products to our customers in an unbelievably short amount of time.

“They almost feel personally attached when they know the piece of equipment they are working on that day is going to a hospital expansion that might save someone’s life.”