IMTS Insider

Manufacturing’s Time to Shine

Category: Business Jun 19, 2020

By Kathy Keyes Webster, AMT Exhibitions Content Manager – Correspondence

Making Parts for Ventilators Boosts Moral

The calls began almost immediately after California and Illinois issued their stay-at-home orders. Aneesa Muthana’s electric vehicle customers were cancelling and postponing orders. As CEO of Pioneer Service Inc., a precision manufacturer in Addison, Ill., Muthana was alarmed as her largest customers told her they were putting production on hold.

As cancellations mounted, Muthana’s medical customers began to reengage—calling to check on existing orders, expand orders, and even place new ones. At the time, Muthana knew Pioneer made parts for ventilators but she didn’t know how important those parts would become. She’d soon find out as ventilator production across the world increased to meet the need of hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.

“Our medical customers told us, ‘Hang on to your hat. This is going to be a bumpy ride,’” Muthana laughs. “They weren’t kidding.”

“We immediately started shifting machines and team members to run their parts, while figuring out the new social distancing, cleaning, and sanitation measures.”

More About Aneesa Muthana
Since 1993, Aneesa has served as President and Co-owner of Pioneer Service Inc. The Society of Women Engineers recently chose her as one of "Women Engineers You Should Know." She serves on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the Precision Machined Products Association and serves on the Board of Directors for the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center. She grew up learning about centerless grinding in her parents’ job shop. She credits Pioneer’s success with her team’s attention to quality and drive to implement new technologies.

Pioneer received an influx of large, quick turnaround orders for components used in ventilators, portable oxygen concentrators, lab automation lines, and even hospital beds. Thanks to the company’s recent investments into manufacturing technology equipment and machine monitoring software, Pioneer Service has been able to respond quickly, and run some orders with lights out.

Aneesa Muthana

“With the machines communicating to the operators, we have less idle time, can predict tool wear, and prevent breakdowns,” explained Muthana.

“Before placing the orders, customers asked us to ensure our material and finishing suppliers could handle the increase in volume. Our suppliers are staying open and can meet our needs right now. Although a few have had scheduling delays due to staff working staggered shifts,” says Muthana.

Fortunately, Pioneer’s suppliers are in the United States, so it was able to source materials and components quicker than competitors with supply chains that cross borders. Longer term, Muthana thinks many of her clients will consider moving more work to manufacturers in this country as they continue to experience shortages and delays from some overseas vendors.

As Pioneer Service ramps up to make the medical components, it is also continuing to make parts for less time sensitive industries that need conveyor equipment, cooling systems, welding and pipe equipment, and food processing equipment.

“We feel privileged to have our doors open, knowing our parts are contributing to a larger purpose than just our bottom line,” says Muthana.

Top of Muthana’s mind are her employees. “Everyone is challenged right now. Some are taking care of older parents and some have school-aged children home,” says Aneesa. “First and foremost, I want employees to be safe when they come to work. Then everything else falls into place. We have daily meetings to make sure families are safe and healthy.”

When Muthana heard that one of her employees, a single mom, did not have time to stand in line for toilet paper, she told staff that she had a surplus of toilet paper in the office for anyone that needed it. More employees picked some up. Later, employees surprised her with a card to show their appreciation.

Time to Shine
During Pioneer’s employee interview process and often during educational facility tours, Aneesa shares that “manufacturing touches lives.” Today the statement is resonating with every Pioneer employee. She and her team have been working with deeper conviction and purpose knowing they are making parts that save lives.

“I’ve always said that manufacturers bring value to our lives through the parts they make--from components on airplanes to life-saving medical devices,” says Muthana. “This experience really enforces how manufacturers touch lives.”

“Whether you are or are not making medical equipment to fight the pandemic, this is manufacturing’s time to shine. People are seeing the importance of a strong domestic manufacturing industry--it’s value to help fight the health crisis, and its value to our daily lives,” adds Muthana.

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