WAHPETON, N.D.—Perhaps the most significant lesson learned from the challenges of 2020—for at least one manufacturer—has been the need for flexibility.
That has been WCCO Belting Inc.'s approach to its customers, employees and overall safety during the pandemic. The company that specializes in custom rubber belting for machines in the agriculture, construction, industrial and recycling industries feels that it can be a model for not only its own growth, but for other rubber manufacturers managing operations during this challenging period.
Like many businesses, the Wahpeton-based company has been forced to make several adjustments throughout 2020, even though it is still hiring for open positions. When COVID-19 restrictions first were put into place in mid-March and throughout the next couple of months, North Dakota's population generally was not affected. Yet many of the company's customers around the world were, said Jean Voorhees, vice president of business development.
Immediately WCCO Belting's leadership team created a cross-functional task force that initially began meeting every day. Members of the task force comprised a variety of departments such as human resources, safety, marketing and more. Immediately the task force members determined that one of the primary goals was to increase the level of flexibility in every aspect of their business. To get there, they recommended the development of a much more robust system of internal and client communications.
Now, an emergency notification system sends messages to the more than 200 company employees who opted in to the program, a number that Voorhees said represents almost the entire company. Other communications from posters to emails detailing local, state and federal guidelines related to the coronavirus were shared with clients, vendors and other external stakeholders. Since WCCO Belting is located near the Minnesota border, communications from both North Dakota and Minnesota also were delivered to employees, as some employees live in the border state.
The task force also made the decision to use approved foggers to clean all internal equipment to further promote health and safety with its employees. "Even as we learned more about how the virus spreads, we have continued to use this cleaning process as a way to provides our employees with peace of mind," Voorhees said. "Our primary goal over the last few months has been to keep our employees safe and do anything we can to prevent community spread at our company."