Two local manufacturers facing challenges during COVID

JOPLIN, Mo. – Local manufacturers are seeing the impact of COVID-19 and continuing to make adjustments to production. We spoke with two local manufacturers to see what challenges they’re facing.

Two local manufacturers are feeling the effects of COVID. We start at Modine in Joplin, which began making changes back in March, like requiring masks when social distancing isn’t possible, among other things. Plant Manager Jon Schwarten says “We’ve also about doubled the number of break periods we have, everybody has the same number of breaks, but there’s less people at any one break, so that there’s less people in a room at a time.”

Across town is another type of manufacturing, chocolates at Candy House Gourmet. Candy House Gourmet Manager Kayla Koff says “We’re already a food establishment so we were already doing a lot of cleaning already, thankfully for us that meant we had things on hand, so when other people had to find a source for that we already had that under control.”

It’s not COVID that’s causing them problems directly though. Schwarten says “It’s a struggle to find people, they have sent us everybody they have and that’s it, and it’s interesting with unemployment rate, much higher than it was say 8-9 months ago before the pandemic, it seems like it’s more difficult to find people now than it was then.” Koff says “So we usually double if not triple our year round staff at the Christmas season and this year we just don’t have the applicants, we’ve been running a lot of different courses to try and get those people in, but we’re just not seeing those numbers this year.”

And that is putting a strain on workers. Schwarten says “Lots of overtime right now, some people like it, some people don’t.” Koff says “We’ve done our own internal changes to do bigger batches and to do entire days of products instead of doing a little bit a time, which has really helped our production numbers, we’ve been able to produce more with less.”

Both Modine and Candy House Gourmet say they’ve seen demand for what they make increase within the last couple of months, and both say they’re looking for skilled workers.