MGS Mfg. Group Inc.'s timing has proven to be critically important in the fight against COVID-19.
A year ago, the injection molder and toolmaker decided to invest $20 million to build a Healthcare Center for Excellence at its Germantown, Wis., headquarters. The project included a 13,000-square-foot clean room, 20 injection molding machines, automated assembly cells and auxiliary equipment.
Officials didn't know at the time how the project would play an essential role in suppling plastic components for COVID-19 tests. Or that the expansion would quickly reach capacity and that the molder would have to expand again, this time even faster.
"I think we all know, back in March and April [the United States] was woefully unprepared," President Paul Manley said in a telephone interview. "Without testing capability … everything shut down. Our focus was on our diagnostic customers. How do we scale up?
"We had just completed an ISO Class 8 clean room to start production on those products. Today that clean room is completely full. We have full-scale production on 12 machines, complete with automation, running 24/7," Manley said.
To meet U.S. demand for COVID-19 tests, MGS scaled initial production nearly thirtyfold. That meant building high-cavitation tools, bringing in more multishot molding capacity and quickly getting the work cells qualified and churning out parts.
Having extensive experience in the medical market proved to be invaluable.
"We have been positioning MGS for the better part of a decade now to provide solutions to the health care industry," Manley said. Company officials felt their experience with molding, automation and making high-end injection tooling made the medical market a good fit.
Having everything under one roof also helped, especially as travel became difficult.
"Having all that capability allowed us to really react quickly. It allows us to compress lead time. In this case, we were able to scale production faster than most anyone," Manley said.