Thoughts on Weathering the Pandemic as Manufacturers and Suppliers
No doubt, these are trying times. Yet, Phil Wilson, executive vice president at Extreme Engineering, holds hope.
“Don’t look at this as, ‘Gosh … this is another red tape in my life.’ Look at it as an opportunity,” he says. “I think there’s going to be things from this, that creatively, all of us can come up with—whether it’s a new product, a new service—there’s some innovation coming out of these down moments.”
Wilson is not the only one in the manufacturing community to pace himself and keep a positive outlook.
“While some projects have gone on hold, others have gone on—which is great,” says Chloe Hausfeld, director at JRA, leading marketing and business development. “We continue to answer RFIs (request for information), RFPs (request for proposal) and look forward to helping some of our current clients with their reopening.”
Galaxy Multi Rides, a maker of ninja courses and inflatable parks, continues to fulfill orders—and help other manufacturers and suppliers focus on the future.
“It’s important to me that they [other manufacturers and suppliers] survive, because it’s the strength of our industry. If one goes under, it creates a knockdown effect,” says Mike Whincup, the chief ride designer and marketing director at Galaxy Multi Rides. He believes all manufacturers should share advice with each other when weathering uncertain times.
The trio took part in a live discussion on IAAPA’s Facebook page where they discussed how manufacturers can stay busy, connect with their competition, and prepare for growth.
Pushing Past the Slowdown
While many attractions around the world remain shuttered out of an abundance of caution during the COVID-19 global pandemic, manufacturers and suppliers have also felt the pinch. Yet, several have found a way to keep moving forward.
“The pure production side of things has certainly slowed down. But the service side—working on quotes, creative illustrations, master planning—those things I’ve seen ramped up quite a bit,” Wilson says. “There is work to be done, but the shift is changing.”
Since the global pandemic began, Extreme Engineering pivoted, designing new products. The company is working with other manufacturers to redesign the queues found at the entrances to attractions. The new design would continue to expedite guests through ticketing areas, while allowing groups of visitors to remain six feet apart. The company began making face shields—a new line of business for the company. Wilson says the shields are perfect for owners and operators as they look to protect ride attendants, ticket takers, First Aid employees, and other frontline staff that will be in direct contact with guests.
“As much of it seems concerning and scary, celebrate the ideas that are going to come out of it. I think it’s going to be a good thing for a lot of us,” Wilson says.
Staying flexible is also important for Galaxy Multi Rides. “It’s been an interesting transition while we’ve been locked down here in Florida,” says Whincup, based in Port Charlotte, Florida. “We’ve got different projects in various states of completion. Thankfully, they’re still ticking along.” Many of Galaxy’s employees are used to wearing protective gear while working in the factory. Staying safe by donning a mask is nothing new as projects proceed as planned.
A Shift in Sales
With attractions closed, many in the manufacturing community are not looking to make a sales pitch, rather just stay connected. “We asked the question: ‘How do you communicate with your customers and get in touch with them?’ because nobody is thinking about buying right now—and we certainly weren’t thinking about selling,” says Whincup. The result was turning to social media and hosting a weekly talk show. With 30 years in business and a deep well of contacts, Galaxy Multi Rides regularly brings their clients together to share ideas and information in a virtual space on Facebook. Corporate tax lawyers, insurance agents, and finance companies have provided insight, all for free.
“It’s all about connecting people and sharing the experience so we feel a little bit better,” Whincup says.
Hausfeld agrees, now is not the time to be what she calls “sales-y.” “We’re doing our best to stay relevant and seen by our current clients and potential clients,” she says, adding even JRA’s “frienemies”—friends who are competitors in the same marketplace—are staying open to sharing information. “Everyone is hurting right now and we need to make sure we’re thinking of them,” Hausfeld says.
Ready to Embrace the Future
Wilson believes there is a silver lining in the delay. “The good thing about this is that we’ve been able to spend time with our family,” Wilson says. “We’re always on the road, we’re always traveling, we’re always somewhere. Right now is that magic moment where you get to spend a little extra time—it’s chaotic—but there’s also some great things to come of it.”
Hausfeld misses her office staff—and her son’s daycare. “I can’t wait to not hug, but, want to hug all of our team and see them in the office,” she says, adding she’s enjoyed spending time at home with her husband and young son, but misses going into the office. “We are an extremely social industry and we’ll continue to be social. That’s not going to change,” Whincup concludes.