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Business Observer Friday, Apr. 24, 2020 2 months ago

Manufacturer of in-demand medical gear moves swiftly — with smarts

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TouchPoint Medical also worked its contacts to maintain its supply chain.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

TouchPoint Medical, a maker of high-tech carts and medicine-dispensing devices for use in hospitals, and a subsidiary of Concordville, Pa.-based TouchPoint Inc., opened its new headquarters in Odessa, a bedroom community in Pasco County, on Feb. 20. Just a few weeks later, the COVID-19 crisis hit, roiling the global economy and sending manufacturers like TouchPoint into a frenzy as they tried to keep up with off-the-charts demand. 

“Some of our largest customers are in New York, right in the thick of the battle against COVID-19,” says Jessi Cravens, TouchPoint’s operations and supply chain manager. “In the beginning it was a rat race to bring four months’ worth of demand into three weeks of production. But the team reacted quickly and stayed positive.” 

“We’re taking as many proactive measures as we can to keep employees safe and to protect the families that they’re going home to.” Jessi Cravens, Touchpoint Medical’s operations and supply chain manager

Cravens, who served as project manager during the construction of TouchPoint’s $30 million, 142,000-square-foot facility, says the firm, which employs 225 people, didn’t hesitate when it came time to figure out how to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on its production capacity. 

“We went to mandatory overtime right away, and mandatory Saturdays,” she says. Thanks to that decision, made March 13, “we have reached a level of sustainability.” 

It helped that TouchPoint transitioned to its new home about a month ahead of schedule. “We moved in 24 days early,” Cravens says. “It was perfect timing and so beneficial to have our entire operations team under one roof because [the COVID-19 crisis] has been such a fluid situation.”

TouchPoint Medical workflow carts ready to be shipped to hospitals and other health care providers around the country. The carts are in high demand amid the COVID-19 crisis. Courtesy photo.

Another key strategic move was the immediate addition of a second shift and the hiring of 24 employees to help fill the extra hours. Not only did that help TouchPoint meet the rapidly increasing demand for its products, but it also provided flexibility for employees with young children whose home lives were suddenly thrown into disarray by the closure of schools and daycare centers. 

“So now our building is open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.,” Cravens says. “Employees who need to switch shifts with a spouse so they can cover child care during the day have flexibility in their hours. We've been very fortunate that most of our employees have been able to continue working their normal shifts, including overtime. Most of the people who have been impacted by child care concerns are ones who are able to do their work remotely.” 

Of TouchPoint’s 225 employees, 138 are considered essential for production and work in the building. The company has increased the frequency with which its outsourced janitorial service cleans and sanitizes the facility, while common areas like the cafe and meeting rooms are receiving extra disinfectant work. Also, all onsite employees have been given hand sanitizer “to have on their person at all times,” Cravens says. “We’re taking as many proactive measures as we can to keep employees safe and to protect the families that they’re going home to.” 

TouchPoint has also had to go to bat for its supply chain. “We’ve had three suppliers who’ve been shut down by their local governments,” Cravens says. 

Jessi Cravens is TouchPoint Medical's operations and supply chain manager. She also served as project manager during the construction of the firm's new headquarters in Odessa. Courtesy photo.

Two of the suppliers are based in the United States, while the other is headquartered in Mexico. Cravens says TouchPoint’s lawyers helped make sure the company’s inventory didn’t fall short at such a crucial time. 

“Our legal team worked very closely with those suppliers and we’ve been able to get all three of them back up and running,"says Cravens. "We had to plead with the people who make decisions in their area. We had to make sure they understood the impact on our business, our impact on hospitals, and that we are right in the middle of things.” 

Businesses can learn another critical crisis lesson from TouchPoint: Communicate early and often. Cravens says she and her team were quick when it came to informing suppliers of the role they had to play. 

“As soon as we realized that some areas of the country and the world were shutting down, we immediately started drafting supply chain letters to go out to our suppliers,” she says, “to let them know TouchPoint Medical is an essential business in the war against the virus and, therefore, their essential business will keep us up and running.”

Another innovation? Expedited order fulfillment, thanks to rapid-response configurations for in-demand workflow carts.

“It might not be exactly what customers would order if they had the time to shop and build from scratch,” Cravens says, “but it is something we can get out there in a matter of days and they can start using immediately.”

 

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