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What Does Small Business Aerospace Manufacturing Look Like During a Pandemic? Find out as we interview Vice President and Co-Founder of InterConnect Wiring, Clare McGarrey!

1. How is coronavirus affecting your small business?

InterConnect has remained open all through the coronavirus pandemic. As an essential business, closing was not an option since we support our country’s Defense and Homeland Security.

2. What were the first things you did when COVID-19 really started to show itself?

First off, do you know the origin of the term “COVID-19”? It came from these designations: ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ ‘D’ for disease, and 19 for the year, 2019, when the virus originated. The very first thing the owners of InterConnect Wiring did was research and write a COVID-19 Mitigation Plan, then put it into effect right away. We shared it with all of our employees via Chatter, so everyone was aware of the new policies and procedures during this pandemic. The next thing we did was create a “get out of jail free” card (think- the game of Monopoly). In actuality, it is a small laminated card that fits in your wallet and says, “Essential Critical Infrastructure Worker – Defense Industrial Base Member – United States Department of Homeland Security – CISA”. We gave this card, which, by the way, also has my personal cell phone number on it, to all employees so if stopped during the COVID-19 “lockdown”, they could show it to the authority and call me if necessary.

3. As a company “critical” to our country’s defense, what measures have y’all had to take to keep everything sanitary and safe while staying open?

InterConnect has hired a company to perform enhanced cleaning daily. Additionally, we have 6-foot separated tape markers on the floors to keep everyone at a safe distance from one another. We have changed our lunch schedule so that not too many individuals are in the break rooms at one time. Also, there are 4 main manufacturing areas, so we have implemented the policy where one only works in the building in which he/she is assigned. We have asked everyone to stay in their own buildings so as not to cross paths with others if not absolutely necessary. We also allowed some people to work from home.

4. How are your employees handling working from home?

For three months InterConnect had indirect (non-assembly, non-inspection, non-testing, etc.) employees working from home if they chose to. We saw our employees wearing their InterConnect logo shirts, but funny pants sometimes. I personally favored my Christmas pajama bottoms. Sometimes, in our Zoom meetings, we got to see and hear their children laughing, climbing, and running, cats obnoxiously walking across their laps, or dogs barking and making appearances. (Think- Secret Life of Pets.) It was wonderful. It is our Falcon Family.

5. What are the top two pros and top two cons of working from home?

Pros: 1) Less physical distancing issues having less individuals at our manufacturing plant, and 2) wearing pajama bottoms or shorts “to” work and nobody knowing it!

Cons: 1) Less ability to feel a part of the Falcon Team. InterConnect’s company mascot is a Falcon; therefore, we are all Falcons. Teamwork is a huge role in our company, and 2) not being able to have daily company-wide meetings, weekly fun internal competition games, and daily Fantastic Falcon recognition awards in person.

6. What measures has InterConnect Wiring taken to keep everyone healthy?

We hired a nurse to take the temperatures of all employees before starting work each day. If an employee feels sick, he/she is to stay home and just let us know. Just this week, as a service to our employees, we hired a medical company to come onsite and test ALL employees for COVID-19. Everyone will be provided their results in 2 days; our employees truly appreciated this service we provided.

When Governor Abbot of Texas ordered that all companies have their employees wear masks, we enacted the mandatory mask program, and provided masks to everyone. Soon after this, we hired a medical consultant, JourneyMed Direct Primary Care, to assist with 1) developing an infectious disease preparedness and response plan specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2) performing a facility evaluation and recommendations on workplace safety specific to concerns related to COVID-19, 3) running contact tracing following any potential positive cases in the workplace, and my favorite, 4) providing a nurse practitioner (NP) to be on-call 24/7 for our employees for evaluation, testing, prompt identification, and treatment of sick employees. The nurse practitioner also does on-site visits at InterConnect twice weekly to be available for medical questions or concerns. Would you believe the nurse practitioner makes house calls to an employee who is sick or worried about the coronavirus, and she prescribes medications as necessary? The NP even diagnoses and treats family members living in the same home as our employee!

Finally, we have invested in three (3) automated Wello machines. These are the only automated, non-contact clinical thermometer kiosks that ensure nobody is at risk of exposure during the screening process. It was FDA cleared in 2018, clinically tested, HIPPA compliant, provides results in 3-5 seconds per scan with customized alerting for detection of elevated temperatures, and a “Wellness” sticker is printed for each individual to wear daily, to show they do not have an elevated temperature. This sticker has the employee’s picture on it and will make the employee and his fellow Falcons know they are safe – while still continuing to maintain physical distancing, of course.

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7. What is your typical quarantine routine? 

For those who have been near someone who has tested positive, we ask all employees to quarantine for 14-days, or until they test negative. 

8. What does this pandemic/recession mean for the aerospace industry? What does the future look like?  

The main problem with this pandemic in our aerospace industry is the realization that we have to depend on countries outside of the USA for some parts. I can have a $50,000 wiring harness 99.9% ready to ship to the USAF, only lacking one simple, tiny, $0.08 contact. It has been painful to be beholden to Mexico (from whom we are required to buy some sole-source parts) since their country determined that Defense is not essential and shut down those businesses. This fact really hurt aspects of our industry from the large Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s) like Boeing, Lockheed, and Northrop Grumman, to small businesses like ours. Having to wait on parts and not being able to ship $1M in items as expected in a month hurts the small business. It is a bad predicament our industry has put ourselves in, but fortunately, we recognize that and are taking action to NEVER let that happen again. Large Primes are starting to Reshore business back to the USA, which is very good for small businesses like InterConnect Wiring.  

9. Has anything changed with your customers?  

Some of our major customers, like Lockheed Martin, have helped small business by improving payment terms. For example, whereas our standard payment term with Lockheed was Net 30, they are now paying Net 8, which is VERY MUCH APPRECIATED!

10. Do you have any messages of encouragement or recommendations you would like to share with your readers?

My message to everyone is to stay positive, keep physically distancing yourselves from one another, and wear a mask. My mask is to keep you safe, and your mask is to keep me safe. Distancing and masks are incredibly important to me because my husband and I have a son (now 13-years-old) who has undergone heart surgery, major reconstruction trachea (airway) surgery, spinal cord surgeries, ear surgeries, and eye surgeries; this sweet boy is EXTREMELY susceptible to catching a respiratory virus like COVID-19, SARS, or RSV. We want our son to continue living, so we sincerely appreciate it when you wear a mask near us. Of course, he is not the only one who is high-risk, and we never know who is and is not, therefore wearing a mask contributes to keeping everyone safe. 

Another word… support personnel. My niece, Anna, is a nurse and my cousin, Mike, is a respiratory therapist, and I have several friends who are nurses and doctors. Thank you all!

Regarding a recommendation, I would urge everyone to say, “Thank you so very much” to our Police Officers. They are doing an amazing job keeping us safe during these tumultuous times. 

Any final words of wisdom?

Be sure to thank God for the blessings you have today. Every evening during night-time prayers with our son, we thank God for his doctors, surgeons, and nurses, as well as all of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard. Now, since the start of this pandemic, we have added onto that list all COVID-19 medical workers, police officers, and InterConnect Wiring Falcons and their families. The list is getting longer but we are truly grateful and pray for their health and safety. As my friend, Mark says, “It’s hard to be hateful when you’re grateful” even during the pandemic of 2020.

 

For additional COVID-19 resources and great articles about the impact that COVID-19 has had on the Aerospace and Defense (A&D) industry, I highly recommend you go to this page from the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) website. And, if you are in this industry, yet not a member, reach out to AIA and look into becoming one. You will make lifelong friends and excellent connections when you join AIA.

 

Stay well!

 

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Our Licenses

We are the sole licensee of Lockheed Martin for F-16 electrical products. Through this agreement, we have access to Lockheed Martin’s F-16 engineering data, tooling and configuration control information. We also have a Technical Services agreement with Sikorsky for all of their aircraft. This agreement allows us to obtain their engineering data needed to rewire helicopters that Sikorsky manufactures.

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