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Business Observer Thursday, Apr. 30, 2020 3 months ago

Manufacturer splits employees into two teams during pandemic, sees increased competition, motivation

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Sarasota-based Cruise Car has seen more demand lately for its medical carts.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

During the pandemic, many companies are putting social distancing measures in place, including encouraging employees to work from home and separating employees in manufacturing facilities who usually work side-by-side.

Sarasota-based Cruise Car is doing both. Its office employees are working from home whenever possible, and warehouse/manufacturing employees are working 6 feet apart and divided into two teams.

Courtesy. Light utility, low-speed vehicle manufacturer Cruise Car has seen an increase in demand lately for its medical carts.

The light utility, low-speed vehicle manufacturer, which posted $10 million in revenue in 2018, hasn’t seen a significant decrease in orders and instead has seen an increase in demand lately for its medical carts. Cruise Car offers four models of ambulatory vehicles that hold stretchers and can be customized with features including lights, sirens, PA systems and storage cabinets. “Right about the time the news of the pandemic started happening back in February, we started seeing a lot more requests for these types of vehicles,” Cruise Car President Nathan Kalin says.

VA facilities, medical centers, prisons, universities, municipalities and other government entities place orders for the medical vehicles, priced between $12,000 and $23,000. The company is making a couple dozen medical carts a month now that are being shipped nationally and internationally.

‘We have been striving to make sure everyone’s role is duplicated and that someone can always back someone up. Now it’s proving to be invaluable.’ — Nathan Kalin, Cruise Car

Amid changes to pandemic working procedures, the company is seeing an unexpected impact — there’s friendly competition between the two newly created teams, and employees are stepping up and taking ownership of tasks.

Also, although it’s hard to prepare completely for a pandemic, during this time Cruise Car has benefited from some forward-thinking actions. Last year, because of tariffs, the company diversified its supply chain. “We backed every supplier two, three, even up to four places,” Cruise Car CEO Adam Sulimirski says. “We had that in motion going into this. And we’re selling globally, so we’re also aware of what’s going on throughout Asia.”

Talking to family and friends in other areas also helped them guide preparation efforts and draw up an emergency plan. “We were probably a few weeks ahead of everyone,” Sulimirski says.

File. Cruise Car President Nathan Kalin and CEO Adam Sulimirski say Cruise Car was able to create two teams because it previously ensured every role in the company was duplicated.

Fortuitously, the company had recently invested in upgrades to electronics, email systems, network platforms, headphones, laptops and more. In advance of the pandemic hitting the area, it set up email addresses for everyone, including warehouse workers who never had email before.

And then Cruise Car split employees into two teams, with warehouse employees working three days on and three days off. Even Sulimirski and Kalin are on different teams. “The teams are split all the way down,” Sulimirski says. “I haven’t seen Nathan in weeks. It’s been fun to watch the ‘go Team One’ and ‘go Team Two.’”

That’s one positive benefit of the current situation — a good-natured competitive spirit between the production shifts. “Everyone is working a little bit harder trying to outdo the other team,” Kalin says. “It’s something everyone has embraced and is responding well to. It’s a new challenge.”

Beyond the competitiveness, employees have stepped up lately, especially in the warehouse. “They recognize how special it is that they still have a job and that we’re paying 100% of their salary even if the work week is split up,” Kalin says. “They’re also contributing to the solution and resolving the crisis situation. I think the combination of all that is really providing some additional motivation and pride in what they’re doing.”

Cruise Car was able to create two teams because it previously ensured every role in the company was duplicated. “Having that backup or someone who understands a system is what allowed us to split the teams the way we have,” Kalin says. “That’s been a mission-critical component. We have been striving to make sure everyone’s role is duplicated and that someone can always back someone up. Now it’s proving to be invaluable.”

Customer diversification has also been critical. Although orders from customers in some areas might go down as a result of the pandemic, orders from customers in other industries might stay the same or increase. Sulimirski says, “We’re counting our blessings that we have a whole docket of orders to fill.”

 

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