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Moving Consumer Packaged Goods Through COVID-19

April 01, 2020

By now, you’ve seen the photos from news stories about the novel coronavirus: grocery store shelves cleared of essentials like hand sanitizer, disinfectant, soap, toilet tissue, pet food and the many consumer products and foods that comfort us as we hunker down and try to flatten the curve to reduce the burden of COVID-19 on our healthcare workers and infrastructure.

What the photos miss are those same shelves the very next day, restocked and ready for consumers. Many folks across the country are experiencing the eerie quiet of empty streets, parks and schools that have been cleared to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. But behind the scenes, consumer packaged goods manufacturers and retailers are ramping up production and working around the clock to stock shelves and meet consumer demand—and Nercon is there with them, making sure that those products keep moving out the factory door and toward the shelf.

“A lot of people play critical roles in keeping those shelves stocked, so that consumers have the food, personal care items and essential supplies they need to care for themselves and their families during the COVID-19 emergency,” said Mike Weickert, Nercon president. “And they’re taking on risk to make sure consumers have what they need at home.” So, while a conveyor system manufacturer might not be anyone’s first in a list of essential workers, Nercon’s products and services are in demand to keep those necessities in motion.

For Nercon, a leading manufacturer of conveyor systems and equipment located in Wisconsin, this means providing conveyor systems and service to support ramped-up production. With customers in 49 states, Nercon has a place in the product conveyance efficiency of a vast majority of American Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) manufacturers. For some, it comes as a surprise that a company employing about 125 people at two locations in Wisconsin would play such an important role in the consumer supply chain. But when CPG companies all over the U.S. are ramping up production and rolling out product as fast as they can make it, Nercon’s engineering and conveyor equipment expertise is needed more than ever to keep the products rolling on the manufacturing lines.

So, while many neighbors and friends have been sent home from work, Nercon employees continue to work at the offices in Neenah and manufacturing facilities in Oconto to provide instantly responsive support to its customers. In fact, weeks before the stay-at-home orders began rolling out in Wisconsin, manufacturers recognized the need and began placing advance orders for more conveyor systems and extra spare parts, knowing they would be working around the clock. These companies urged Nercon to maintain operations to ensure their conveyor systems and equipment would be fully supported.

Even during a pandemic, the work can require Nercon workers to be deployed to customer sites for installation or service—with great care, while offering employees the option to volunteer or opt out. Manufacturers are not taking COVID-19 lightly and neither is Nercon, and everyone involved is following CDC-informed protocols to limit the risk of exposure or spread. “Ultimately, we’re aware that it’s our privilege to come to work, and to continue to work through this crisis,” said Steve Anklam, Nercon vice president. “And for Nercon right now, working is also part of taking care of one another.”

It’s anything but business as usual. Nercon’s on-site cleaning and disinfecting regimen has been significantly increased, and employees continually wipe down surfaces throughout the workday—even as they observe social distancing recommendations. And to the extent it’s possible, Nercon is working to meet customer needs from a distance with virtual solutions.

“We’re relying much more on technology to communicate with customers through the process,” Weickert said. “We really need to ensure our employees’ health and safety first, in order to deliver on our promises.”

The experience of it all has given new meaning to the tagline for Nercon’s ProCore® Conveyor Systems: “Designed with a Purpose.” According to Anklam, the emphasis was always on design for efficiency, quality and consistency—a purpose that made good sense.

“Now, we have this clear view of the greater purpose that our whole company serves—we help our customers deliver on their promises by getting products to the shelf for the people who need them.”


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