MANUFACTURING: Manufacturers are still feeling the effects of the pandemic |
TRAVERSE CITY — Bay Motor Products is a quiet little company that casts a long shadow in the world of international business.
“We are very much a niche company,” said Andy Robitshek, president of the Traverse City-based manufacturer. “There are very few companies in the United States that do what we do, plus. We are very specialized.
“We make motors and fans that are used in many other products. If you have a gas fireplace, the fans and motors that are used to blow air in and around it, we manufacture them for other companies. We are all over the world, but mainly in North America. We have over 200 different customers we ship to every year.
“We’re in a lot of heating and cooling appliances, especially in the restaurant industry,” he said. “Originally it was a company that many years ago was part of another company that made bathroom fans, but over the years it has expanded.”
Although the pandemic has sparked production at the manufacturing plant which employs about 50, mostly full-time workers, Robitshek said he was looking for better days ahead.
“We’re just trying to keep our heads above water, there’s a lot of blocking and tackling to do, every day,” he said. “There are a lot of delays, but we always try to keep up with everything that’s going on. There’s always a little bit or part that gets a bottleneck – one day it’s one thing and the next it’s is different.
Robitshek said one situation caused by the pandemic-related workforce reduction around the world that he did not see coming was the removal of the number of skilled workers who produce the complex and very special part. which his business needs to make their fans and blowers. For him, it was not only disappointing, but costly.
“With supply chain and downsizing at other companies, we’re finding that a lot of the materials coming in today have quality issues that we didn’t have a year or two ago,” he said. he declared. “We need to spend more time on quality checks of the things that come in.”
Bay Motor Products is a manufacturer of bipolar AC motors, AC fans and blowers used in a variety of applications: commercial refrigerators and ovens, fireplaces, heaters, medical devices and scientific equipment, and various applications such than battery chargers. , welders, duct boosters, refrigerators and microwave ovens.
In recent years the company has expanded its product line to include fans and blowers which are used in products such as vending machines, electric heaters, tanning beds, fireplace inserts, residential ovens and commercial.
“A lot of our customers sell to restaurants (so when they suffered during the pandemic, we suffered),” he said. “We’ve started to see a rebound in the last three or four months. We are on the comeback and there are a lot of people here that I work with who have made this possible. We really value the community here. We work with a number of other companies, we share our experiences and knowledge, it’s a great place to do business. We have a number of longer term employees.
Like everyone in the private sector and the corporate world, Bay Motor Products has been impacted by rising gasoline prices, an elastic economy that is too often pushed to its limits, product availability and costs – steel and copper can be a particular problem – and more so, allowing Robitshek to “block and tackle” to keep his company in the game.
Because the company is so specialized in the products it makes and so in demand even in a struggling economy, Robitshek hopes better days are on the horizon.
“We started a second shift, which we didn’t have before the pandemic,” he said. “It’s probably been over 10 years since the organization has had a second shift.”
Robitshek explained that the addition of the second shift “may not be because we have more staff”, but rather because the company is “trying to do something differently, in terms of planning “.
“We have great people working here and we’re very proud of where we work,” he said. “Every day, trucks come to pick up our products.
The challenges faced by Robitshek and Bay Motor Products over the past few years, and the directions the company plans to take for the future, are shared by countless other manufacturers around the world. Everyone, everywhere is looking for ways to regain the momentum they had before the pandemic created such a suffocating smokescreen.
A National Association of Manufacturing (NAM) survey of first-quarter projections for 2022 indicates, in part, “…demand for manufactured goods remains strong despite a host of headwinds in the global economy. The challenge for manufacturing companies has been to meet this demand, with significant hurdles related to supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, soaring costs and COVID-19. remains tight, with employment growth in the sector in 2021 picking up at the fastest pace since 1994.”
The report continues: “…companies cite difficulties in finding enough workers to meet their capacity needs, despite growing production of wages and non-supervisory workers in the manufacturing sector which has reached its highest level in 40 years. . At the same time, manufacturers have had around 800,000 or more job offers – a very high rate – for 10 consecutive months. During the first quarter, 88.1% of respondents cited supply chain challenges as a top business challenge, 85.7% cited rising raw material costs, and 79% cited the inability to attract and retain a quality workforce. »