When the economic fallout from the coronavirus forced thermoformer Kruger Family Industries to furlough 300 workers — or about half the staff at its Wisconsin factories — the company went into overdrive to try to replace that lost work.
Less than a week later, with the country turning convention centers into makeshift hospitals, it thinks it's found a new path: making emergency medical beds.
The Portage, Wis.-based firm is retooling one of its plants from making pickup truck bedliners and auto components to churning out portable, plastic thermoformed emergency and disaster relief beds.
KFI President David Kruger said after the need for job cuts became apparent earlier this year, staff worked quickly to examine the company's skill set, come up with a plan and compress what would normally be a few months of product development into a week.
"This is an eight, 10, 12 week type project that we pulled off in about five days," he said. "We started with a blank piece of paper on Monday. And by Friday afternoon, we had sent purchase orders off for tools to be cut."
"It was lots of long days, lots of long nights," he said.
The company aims to have production going by April 13 and plans to start calling at least some of those furloughed employees back. It's working with mattress makers and metal parts fabricators but will be doing final production in its factory.