Published in Talent

‘Our people and our customers’ guide manufacturer through pandemic

BY Sunday, January 02, 2022 06:24pm

From workforce shortages and supply chain snags to rising costs of raw materials, the manufacturing industry has certainly faced a multi-pronged set of issues throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As a company that manufactures metal products and assemblies, Grandville-based Jireh Metal Products Inc. was certainly not immune. MiBiz caught up with President and CEO Michael Davenport to learn how the pandemic has shaped the way Jireh will do business in the future.

I’m sure there have been many lessons that have come during the last two years: What’s the biggest takeaway?

Michael Davenport COURTESY PHOTO

The thing that stuck out most to me was the need to have a really great team. And that team is not only the folks helping to lead the organization, but it’s the organization as well. It’s been a doozy. I think about all the things that had to get done at Jireh — not only for our people and our customers, but the company itself — and I’m thankful for the team that I have and the people that call Jireh home.

How important has agility and nimbleness been during this time of volatility?

If I wasn’t doing yoga before, I certainly would start to do it now — probably hot yoga [laughs]. You learn this stuff, you read the books and talk about what life should be like and what companies should be like. But until you go something like this — not only did you have this sort of initial reaction when we shut down in March (2020), but you start to have the ripple effects of all this from labor shortages to supply chain issues. It really causes you to have a bottle or two of Pepto Bismol near. Our North Star has always been what’s right for our people and our customers. When you’re doing that, the company will be fine.

What sort of adjustments have you made at Jireh that you think will remain engrained in how you do business moving forward?

Certainly flexibility. We thought we were before, particularly with our people and our customers. There is stuff that happens at all levels. A customer may forget to put an order in that needs to be rushed. Or there is (COVID-19) contact tracing and one of our people has to go home. I think (it’s about) being flexible and just making sure that you’re treating people like individuals and making sure you’re there for them just like they were there for you. Same goes for our customers. We like customers who are partners, and I’m sure customers like suppliers that are partners.

Many local manufacturers have stressed developing their own teams and upskilling to combat labor shortages. Did Jireh introduce any new programs on that front?

We were already big on trying to promote from within. I think one of the things is we are getting people who are entering with less experience. The way that we’ve onboarded those folks with having them shadow a seasoned team member, I think really helped to avoid some issues. We had those issues early on and made the adjustment. It just took a longer period of time with folks. I think that really has made a difference and we’ll certainly continue to do that.

Looking ahead, are you optimistic that the pressures of the industry will start to stabilize and your company can move forward successfully?

Absolutely yes. We withstood this blow. If you look at a company and see they survived through COVID, I think you can default and say they’re a good company. As we look forward, we believe we will be stronger and we believe we will be better and we believe that we will be wiser. I think the future is bright for us and West Michigan at large.

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