A Local Aerospace Parts Manufacturer Takes Mask Matters in Their Own Hands

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The need for PPE, especially masks, is tremendous. S.S. White Technologies Inc, a local manufacturing company saw this need and immediately switched gears to start designing and producing masks for their staff as well as the community.

SS White/SHUKLA Medical Building

SS White/SHUKLA Medical headquarters in Seminole/St. Petersburg, FL

“Thank you, S.S. White,’ said Scott Talcott, “Pinellas County is fortunate to have generous and nimble manufacturers like you.”

A local manufacturing company in Seminole/St. Petersburg has shown its creative and fighting spirits by setting up a quick production line to make face masks and distribute them free of cost. S.S. White Technologies makes components for aircraft systems. Its parts are used in 95% of all the airplanes in the world. Its subsidiary, SHUKLA Medical, manufactures orthopedic instruments. The companies operated in New Jersey for decades, but in 2018 purchased a manufacturing building from eyeglass manufacturer Essilor off of Park Street in Seminole and relocated their entire operation to sunny Florida.

Its 125 employees have known S.S. White for its progressive management and its family-like environment. And it’s no wonder. The owner, president of this historical company (it was founded in 1844) was hired as a factory worker 47 years ago. Then, 32 years ago, the worker purchased the factory and became the president of the company. President Rahul Shukla says, “I have never forgotten my roots and I think of every employee as a member of my family.”

The management stayed a step ahead of the worsening crisis of COVID-19. When the total cases reached only 4,000, Mr. Shukla called a general meeting and told all employees that things will get much worse soon. Three weeks ago, the management rearranged the work spaces to create a minimum of six feet of distance between workstations. They allowed non-manufacturing workers to work from home, broke a single shift into three shifts and announced an appreciation bonus of $30 per day for all production workers. The company quickly changed all faucets and fixtures in all the restrooms so that employees do not need to touch handles, faucets or towel dispensers. The company installed foot pedals on the doors so employees do not have to touch the door handles. They revised their badge reader system, which allows employees to clock in and out, to be hands-free through their proprietary software. They installed additional hand sanitizers and purchased a large supply of disposable gloves. Purchasing the masks proved to be a problem. Amazon did not have them, eBay did not have them. The management knew if the governor issued a stay-at-home order, the company would be required to stay open because they manufacture critical aerospace and automotive parts as well as medical products. Therefore, it was important to have face masks for the protection of employees who need to come to work.

It soon became evident that masks were not available and it would not be fair to compete for masks with medical professionals who need them more. Rather than throw his hands up in despair, the president of S.S. White called the head of operations and HR Manager and said, "Our engineers can design intricate medical instruments and aerospace parts. Why can't they quickly design washable cloth masks?" VP, Subra Naglapura, agreed. HR Manager, Sheryl Sheppard, was asked to head the project. Design Engineer, Brian Servedio, whose expertise is in making metal instruments to extract worn out orthopedic implants, got on his CAD software and started cranking out designs. It took only a half-day to come up with a design for a washable, reusable mask with creative nuances.

In the meantime, Ms. Sheppard sent an email to employees asking for workers who wanted to work on this project. She was looking for three people; fifteen came forward to work on the project. Drawings, Work Instructions and Bill of Materials were prepared in hours. Rahul Shukla instructed the team to obtain as much raw material and machinery as possible. Orders were placed for sewing machines, fabric, thread, labels, and filtering material. Templates and toolings were quickly designed. The company is well versed in expediting how to get raw material in a matter of days. Most material was received the next day.

Mr. Rahul Shukla had thrown the challenge to his team on Thursday, April 2, to design the masks and set up production lines. On the afternoon of Monday, April 6, five production lines were up and running in the cafeteria. The masks will be supplied at no cost, first to their 125 employees, then for the employees’ immediate families, then to any local medical organization that requests it, and then for employees of other local manufacturers.

"We know how to design and manufacture complex aerospace and medical parts. Making masks is child's play for our team", said VP Subra Naglapura. Sheryl Sheppard, the project leader said, “everyone on the mask team, (she calls them Mask-ateers) is excited to be contributing to this huge crisis in our small way."

When Mayor of Seminole, Leslie Waters learned about S.S. White’s efforts, she said, “S.S. White is to be lauded for their efforts. My personal compliment to Mr. Shukla, S.S. White President, a true leader in our community.”

Scott Talcott of Pinellas County Economic Development asked Ms. Sheppard if S.S. White can make a few more masks for workers of another local manufacturer, National Molding. National Molding makes seals for a possible vaccine for COVID-19. They also fill, and seal flu reagent vials. When Sheppard told Talcott and Doug Storey of National that S.S. White was more than happy to help, they were thrilled. “Thank you, S.S. White,’ said Scott Talcott, “Pinellas County is fortunate to have generous and nimble manufacturers like you.”

For more information or to contact our HR Manager, Sheryl Sheppard, call (727) 626-2831 or email at Sheryl@sswhite.net.

Click on the links to learn more about S.S. White Technologies Inc. and/or SHUKLA Medical.

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Sheryl Sheppard

Sheryl Sheppard
since: 05/2011
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