PioneerIWS (Dalton, OH) is a family-owned business in Dalton, Ohio. Founded in 1978 by Wayne Wengerd, Pioneer’s core business, for over 40 years, has been the design and fabrication of agricultural equipment (Pioneer Equipment Inc.). Over the years, the company has evolved from manufacturing horse-drawn plows (which it still makes today) to carriage gears, (Pioneer Carriage) and industrial workflow solutions (PioneerIWS); which includes mobile workstations, custom steel fabrication and more. Today, the company has about 50 employees, including seven of Wayne’s sons and one daughter.
As COVID-19 appeared and spread through China, then Europe, and now the U.S., the family grew concerned about the potential impact the pandemic could have on their business and their employees. The threat quickly came too close to home when two of the Wengerd brothers were exposed to the virus at a trade show. While they did not contract the virus, they did have to quarantine for 14 days after exposure.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is in high demand, but not something Pioneer, as primarily a steel fabricator, was equipped to produce. The increasing demand for hospital beds, specifically hospital field cots, seemed to be a place they could contribute. Pioneer moved quickly and began collaborating with a number of other manufacturers in northeastern Ohio.
In just two weeks Pioneer went from conversation to concept to delivering the first Pioneer IWS Field Hospital Cots to Long Island, NY, on April 3. Another 1,000 shipped to the Greater Columbus Convention Center, in Columbus, Ohio on April 8.
Pioneer retooled their manufacturing facility to mass produce hospital cots with another 2,000 plus in production and requests for product from six different states.
“Our goal is to be able to produce 1,000 beds a day if needed.” said John Wengerd, who led the Pioneer team in setting up the new, incredibly lean assembly line that was able to produce over 100 beds per hour. “This was made possible by utilizing Gridlok on the new Flexturs Workstations and Rolling Shelf.”
“We approached other local businesses for assistance with the project – specifically those with expertise in other areas, like fabrics,” said General Manager Eddie Wengerd.
The response was overwhelming with leaders of other businesses going above and beyond with urgency. “Those connections, and our talented team of committed employees, formed a spirited collaboration to make it happen – and happen very quickly,” Eddie added.
Some brought ideas, others brought connections, and all remain a vital cog in the production process. Brent Nussbaum, CEO of Miller Weldmaster, played a huge part in the project from Day 1, producing prototypes and connecting Pioneer with Seaman Corp., and Brian Graber owner of Arise Tents. David Swartzentruber owner of Zentru Home Furnishing, Jason Weaver president of Weaver Leather, and James Miller of Snyder Manufacturing are also key contributors.
A key ingredient to the distribution of Field Hospital Cots was Lyon Group from Chicago, IL. The Wengerd brothers met up with Lyon Group at MODEX in Atlanta in early March during the early stages of the pandemic. “Steven Turner & Bill Heafey, representatives from Lyon, have already distributed thousands of cots and have been a pleasure to work with,” said Steven Wengerd, sales manager of Pioneer. “We are shipping medical cots throughout the country, including to the following states: OH, NY, MD, CO, CA, NC, UT, and AR.”
Companies in Pioneer’s own supply chain have also assisted including Scott Palmer with Ryerson, Jack Nissan with Alro Steel, Ted Zuercher with Metal Dynamics, Mt. Eaton Pallet, and Pioneer’s coating supplier Hentzen Coatings. In addition, with all the logistics involved, John Masters Trucking, CRW Trucking, and Simms Global have all made contributions.
“We believe in standing together in times of adversity. In difficult times, we have an opportunity to pull together and seek ways to make a difference,” said Pioneer CEO Daniel Wengerd. “It is simply our duty to help our fellow man in time of need – and be a light to the world in these latter times. Our business belongs to the Lord. We are called to serve others and be faithful stewards of His resources in this journey of life.”
For more information about this project or Pioneer, call 330-516-1502 or visit www.pioneeriws.com
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