Editor's note: The Business Journal will be running regular features on area businesses and how they are adjusting operations, innovating and coping in general with the economic impacts of the coronavirus. For story or subject suggestions, email [email protected].
Wilmington-based Rulmeca Corp. has been recognized as providing essential critical infrastructure by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
That’s because the company’s production and maintenance of motorized pulleys in the United States serves vital industries, including food producers.
Rulmeca has taken precautions against the spreading of the virus, including having employees working from home and canceling visits with customers and suppliers. The company, a subsidiary of Italy-based Rulmeca Group, began some of its precautionary measures several weeks ago, said Brian Vrablic, Rulmeca's sales and marketing director.
Employees such as Vrablic and Rulmeca President Michael Gawinski are working remotely.
The local company has been “very fortunate” that it’s been able to keep the firm’s entire 11-member Wilmington staff employed and busy, some at its facility located at 3200 Corporate Drive, Suite D, Vrablic said.
Rulmeca's corporate headquarters and manufacturing center in Italy has been closed for several weeks now, and will be closed through at least Easter, Vrablic said, adding that they will evaluate reopening in phases.
With its corporate headquarters closed, other affiliates of the company globally are still operating in some way, including its facility in China, which is almost back at near-capacity, he said.
At the Wilmington-based facility, operations continue for assembling and repairing motorized pullies for some markets.
How has your production or service changed?
“We are actually deemed essential for two different marketplaces. Our first letter came from a customer of ours who is a major multinational food processing company. So, we have their letter.
“Our food processing business … appears to be still moderate to strong. So the companies that we are providing equipment to for the food processing industry appear to still be spending on at least maintenance projects and some new capital. That is a lot of what we do from Wilmington. A lot of the products that we produce from Wilmington are our smaller, food processing products. And so that's allowed us to really keep our staff and keep our facility in Wilmington operational and running because that sector of the business has not significantly slowed down.
"But then in addition to that, we service several aggregate facilities -- rack production, aggregate production, road building type facilities, cement, concrete -- those types of operations and those businesses have been deemed essential by DHS. We're supporting both of those types of markets by staying open."
Do you feel that you will maintain this new level of business right now or do you see it slowing down?
“If this continues to be a threat, if states put more and more pressure to restrict movement and restrict operations, I would say that we would anticipate our motorized pulley business, our conveyor drive business will stay flat to trending down over the next several weeks or months because of further restrictions on businesses that are deemed essential or further restrictions by states on human movement.”
How do you feel about the future?
“We are we are very hopeful. Our holding company, along with our executive staff here in Wilmington, have made some really strong decisions over the past say two to five years that have allowed us to put ourselves in a position to really weather the storm quite well. We run a relatively lean operation. We've diversified our product line, so that when one side of the business is a bit slow, another side of the business is growing. And because of that, we don't see any reason why we won't really come out on the other side of this a bit stronger.”
How do you think this crisis situation will make you guys stronger as a company?
“Certainly it's forced us to use tools that we've had in our arsenal for a while but we maybe haven't been utilizing, particularly on the technology side. And it's forced us to use those tools that our holding company had the foresight to implement, a lot of these software tools, and a lot of these remote working tools, that this situation has forced us to use.
"So on the local side of things, on the Wilmington side of things, what that means is, we are starting to rely on some local partners a little bit more; some of our IT support, some of our web development support, we're leaning on those companies locally a bit more, to help us kind of augment what our standard business practice has been, particularly on the digital side.”