Like virtually every business, Superior Die Set has made adjustments to keep operating amid disruptions implemented to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Oak Creek, Wis., diemaking business designs and produces steel and aluminum molds and tooling for forging, injection molding, and stamping customers, and according CEO Martin Girga it has not been as negatively impacted as some other manufacturers.
Superior Die Set has earned "essential business" status because of its importance to various industries it services, including tooling production, automaking, and stamping operations. Thanks to that designation, and because some of the projects assigned to Superior Die Set include designing tooling for parts for models to be released in coming months, work continues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are feeling less of an impact than probably a typical company … in terms of tool and die shops. That’s favorable to us," Girga observed. "That doesn’t mean that we may not get impacted later.” He said he expects more slowing during the third and fourth quarters of 2020.
One advantage, according to Girga, is in-house production. Some tooling suppliers that rely on foreign-made products are experiencing supply-chain delays, but Superior Die Set is able to control its own supply-chain more efficiently, Girga said.
One change resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has been an increase in orders for components used to manufacture ventilator systems. Accro Tool and Manufacturing, a plastic fabricating business in Burlington, Wis., placed its first order with Superior Die Set late on March 27. It involved a custom mold base for a part of a ventilator. The typical lead time on such a piece is five to seven work days. The Superior Die Set team delivered its first order in less than two days.
According to the customer, because Superior Die Set was able to produce the part so quickly, Accro anticipated tool delivery on April 6.
“We’ve acted on this promptly realizing that this is a good thing for our company and to rally our troops around this to be able to help society, and people that are sick,” Girga said.
Superior Die Set has about 170 employees in the Milwaukee area, according to Girga, recently it consolidated its Greendale and Oak Creek, Wis., locations. It also has operations in Poland.
Girga said the pandemic is impacting all of its locations, but he noted that the Polish operations are still operating well. Superior Die Set has had an "epidemic plan" in place since February.
“We acted very quickly,” Girga said, noting that 90% of the company's employees are working from home. “It’s a strange situation because you have people in the shop. You have people in the office. It’s different. It not only protects the people that are working from home. It also protects the people that need to continue to work here and continues to support the industries that we serve,” he said.
Girga said Superior Die Set is taking appropriate steps to avoid layoffs (including executive pay cuts) while ensuring the company is able to "right size", as may be needed.