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How to Pivot Your Manufacturing Business

While some businesses will need to shut their doors to prevent the spread of COVID-19, others are being called upon to relieve the needs for urgent supplies. 

Regardless of what business you are in, we urge you to first consider the health and safety of your work environment. Minimize your operating risks, and communicate the changes to all your staff. (See our previous blog on strategically preparing your business for COVID-19.)

In recent weeks, we have seen many creative businesses making that “pivot” move; i.e. changing their product or service offerings to supply what’s most urgently needed in a society reeling from the pandemic.

To make a pivot, look at your most basic skills, resources and equipment and creatively consider ways to re-tool them for another purpose.

For example:

  • If you have metalworking or fabrication equipment – could this be used to make cots, lighting, tables or stands?
  • If you make plastic products, could you make face shields, gloves, masks, or drop sheets?
  • If you construct homes or buildings, could you make modular walls or help design temporary/ modular shelters?
  • If you stitch or sew, could you make protective clothing, masks, gowns, gloves or bedding?
  • If you make packaging, is there any way you can help package foods or supplies in a more sterile manner for use in a healthcare setting?

Yes, there are yet steps to get the specifications being sought, learn how these products are made, and figure out if you can make them at a sustainable margin. But there could easily be loans or grants to out there to support the changes.

So, we thought perhaps one of the most useful things we could offer to our business readers would be to provide a list of products most needed. Read on – we’ve got lists and links ready for you.

Products Needed During the COVID Pandemic

All kinds of governments are seeking help right now. The World Health Organization has published supply lists of what these are, but each country and regions also has its own procurements sites as well.

  • Cleaning Products.  Hand sanitizer (which beer and alcohol manufacturers are beginning to make), liquid soap, sanitizer for electronic equipment.  Air purification equipment may also soon be another opportunity.
  • Personal Protective Equipment.  Here’s a facemask pattern for businesses that can sew, plus more items like PVC aprons, bags for medical waste, body bags, disinfectants for surfaces, disposable towels, face shields, sterile and non-sterile gloves, goggles and gowns.  Would you like to see the full description of items in the list?  Download it here.
  • Technologies.  Programmers can also assist by developing apps that help people to modify behaviours (such as avoiding face touching, practice social distancing, or identifying when areas are least crowded), or developing testing kits.  Remember that many public places such as libraries are closed; giving access to broadband can help people without it connect virtually to the services they need.
  • Hospital Furnishings & Equipment.  There is an urgent need for ventilators, especially in New York State (and a Canadian ventilator design challenge on to manufacturers to make inexpensive simple units), plus boxes for sharp containers (syringe disposals).  Keep in mind that if temporary hospitals are constructed, there could be all kinds of products needed, from plumbing supplies to beds, modular walls and lighting.

COVID Procurement Links: How to Get the Orders (US & Canada)

Now is the time to put on your sales hats and start reaching out.  You can approach not just Canadian procurement sites, but also US and Global sites.  In addition, you can contact wholesale distributors who sell such items to hospitals and care facilities. 

Pivoting a business is about creativity and tenacity. We would love to hear your clever ideas as to how your business, or someone else’s, has found a way to pivot during the crisis. We also strongly urge you to consider membership in the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association; this is an organization keeping daily tabs on facilitating this situation with governments during the crisis.

Should you need more help, don’t be shy to give us a call today.

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Jacqueline Drew
About the Author - Jacqueline Drew
Jacqueline M. Drew, BComm, MBA is founder and CEO of Tenato Strategy Inc., a marketing research and strategy firm with bases in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. With over 25 years' experience in all facets of marketing strategy, she is a business consultant, trainer and speaker who loves to use her superpowers "to help the good guys win."