TOPEKA, Ind.—A project that Nishikawa Cooper L.L.C.—commonly known as Nisco—was involved in soon after the pandemic hit got a lot bigger than the firm anticipated, but gave some workers something to focus on at a difficult time.
The joint venture between Nishikawa Rubber Co. and Cooper Standard Automotive was approached to make protective gowns for medical staff and first responders on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak in Indiana. And staff at the firm's factory in Breman, Ind., jumped right in to help, with the first gown produced just a couple of days later.
While the firm had more than 1,000 people on furlough at its three plants in Indiana and a sales and engineering group in Livonia, Mich., Nisco was able to have about 50 people work on the project to make the gowns, said Mike Esselburn, the firm's director of human resources.
"All in all it kept us busy, kept us going," he said. "It was good that we could help out the community. It was a nice gesture on the plant's part to help the community, and it expanded certainly a lot broader than we thought it would go."
Nisco had tried to keep it to a tri-state area—Indiana, Illinois and Ohio—but ended up getting orders from all over the country, Esselburn said. They shipped gowns to New York, and helped out a lot of fire stations and EMTs. Some Nisco employees also ended up buying some themselves to give to local first responders.
He said a hospital network also approached Nisco about making gowns and other medical supplies for their industry full time because the group didn't want to have to buy from China. The Topeka-based firm passed on the opportunity, though, because of the amount of investment that would be needed, plus the number of competitors that could supply the goods at a lot cheaper price.