Wisconsin Made. The Podcast.

EP 8 - Achieving Business Growth Amidst a Global Pandemic | CMD Corporation | Appleton, Wisconsin

May 07, 2021 Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year, CMD Corporation Episode 8
Wisconsin Made. The Podcast.
EP 8 - Achieving Business Growth Amidst a Global Pandemic | CMD Corporation | Appleton, Wisconsin
Show Notes Transcript

“We purchased virtual reality goggles so we could service our international and all our customers, including domestic customers, because we were limited to travel.” – Ricardo Abud | President | CMD Corporation

In this week’s episode of “Wisconsin Made. The Podcast.” we feature CMD Corporation out of Appleton who focuses on delivering advanced technology in converting and packaging equipment by serving customers all around the world. During this podcast episode we learn about some of the innovative technologies that CMD implemented in order to work with the their customers virtually through the use of virtual reality goggles. This gave them the ability to communicate with their customers safely, to train and onboard them with their new equipment and easily answer questions their customers may have when adding their new equipment. In addition, we discuss how CMD dedicated a 3D printer to manufacture parts for face shields and worked with customers to adjust converting equipment originally designed to manufacturer garbage bags, for the production of protective items like aprons for health care workers.

Our guest joining us is Ricardo Abud, President of CMD Corporation who is an experienced leader within the manufacturing industry with nearly 30 years of domestic and international business experience in the food, paper and capital equipment industries. Join us in this episode as we get a better understanding on how CMD Corporation utilized immerging technologies to continue their business forward during the COVID-19 pandemic which even expanded business opportunities in 2020 and lead them to increasing their workforce.

In this episode we answer:

  • Tell us a little bit about CMD Corporation and what you do? (1:40)
  • What was your initial reaction to the government shutdowns and new regulations during the spring of 2020? (3:15)
  • What were some of the specific things that CMD did to switch over your production to address the needs to fight the pandemic? (6:00)
  • What is a lesson you learned from the pandemic that will help you move CMD forward? (8:20)
  • CMD implemented new technologies to allow you to communicate with your customers, can you tell us a little bit about that? (10:35)
  • Where do you see the manufacturing industry going beyond 2021? (16:05)

Next week, in our final episode of the series, we will be joined by Kelly Ingli, President & CFO; and Tom Aaby, Vice President of Business Development of OEM Fabricators out of Woodville. We will learn about how OEM really stepped up in a big way to give back to their local communities where their three manufacturing facilities are located. Plus, we will wrap up the series by highlighting all the things we learned from these various Wisconsin manufacturing companies.

If you found value in this episode or want to hear the stories from Wisconsin manufacturers, please hit that subscribe button and share it with your peers. We really want to showcase all the good news stories of how manufacturing was critical in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Wisconsin Made. The Podcast.” is brought to you by Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year, a premier annual awards program celebrating excellence in manufacturing in the state of Wisconsin. Thank you to our program sponsors Baker Tilly, Michael Best and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC).

Ricardo Abud | President | CMD Corporation
We purchased virtual reality goggles so we could service our international and all our customers, including domestic customers, because we were limited to travel.

Voiceover
You're listening to Wisconsin Made. The Podcast. brought to you by Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year, a premier annual awards program celebrating excellence in manufacturing in the state of Wisconsin. Now, here's your host, WMC Vice President of Communications and Marketing, Nick Novak.

Nick Novak (Host) | Vice President of Communications & Marketing | WMC
Hello and welcome to this week's episode of Wisconsin Made. The Podcast. The show that takes you inside the strength and resilience of Wisconsin's manufacturing community where we hear from Wisconsin's CEOs and executives to learn about their challenges, opportunities and success navigating their business throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m your host Nick Novak and today we're going to talk about CMD Corporation out of Appleton, but before we get started I’d like to thank our program partners Baker Tilly, Michael Best and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. Together, we remain committed to our mission of recognizing excellence in manufacturing in our state.

Joining us today is Ricardo Abud, President of CMD Corporation and we're excited to have you on the podcast Ricardo, thank you so much for joining us.

Ricardo Abud
It's my pleasure, thank you for having us.

Nick Novak (Host)
So before we get started and kind of going into our conversation let's learn a little bit about CMD Corp. What is it that you do?

Ricardo Abud
Sure, CMD is an OEM also known as a Capital Equipment Manufacturer. We are based in Appleton, Wisconsin, we serve the plastics film converting and the alternative energy industries. CMD's reputation is built on our culture of employee engagement, we are known in the industries that we serve for advancing technology, for delivering on our commitments. CMD has been around for over 40 years, we sell and service equipment around the world, we have a currently 45 countries where we have our technology installed. Currently, we have I would say around over 120 patents and applications and also CMD was voted as best places to work in the plastics industry for six consecutive years so it speaks very highly of the workforce and our culture.

Nick Novak (Host)
Well congratulations on those accolades, I mean that's it's always great to hear and having a Wisconsin company be recognized that is fantastic. I do want to talk about the last year you know COVID-19 kind of crept up in Wisconsin in March of 2020 and kind of just threw a wrench into everyone's plans you know, let's go back a year ago and kind of think about what that moment was like, I mean when you know there started being some of these government shutdowns and new regulations and some of the worry about the pandemic you know, what was your initial reaction to all of that?

Ricardo Abud
That's a an important thing to address and not just for CMD, but I think for all the manufacturers 2020 was a challenging year for everyone I would say, but despite the challenges 2020 ended up being a very strong year for CMD and our people's performance was outstanding, but before we end talking about the end I think it's important that we go back like you said Nick to a year back so if I could explain in a timeline I would say January and February was business as usual for CMD, we were traveling, visiting customers, myself I was in Latin America, I was in Washington state, I had people in Europe and we were having visitors, so I think if we're going to March, I would say that was to set up the foundation for COVID. The first week of March, the switch was turned on. There was a lot of information coming in from many sources, in some cases the information was a little bit confusing and contradictory in some cases, so we decided to form a pandemic committee initially to manage the incoming information and to centralize the CMD's internal communication. We decided at that time to follow the CDC guidelines and start implementing processes and procedures so that was March, we had to focus on what to do setting the foundation, stop all the traveling and stop the customer visits. Then from March to August, the focus change it was to keep our essential workers at CMD safe and engaged and we implemented a large list of activities that allow us to maintain that workforce engaged and safe, we also needed to engage our employees and we implemented an appreciation pay for all employees working at the facility. Currently, that appreciation pay is still in place, so it's been over a year after the implementation of the appreciation pay that CMD is still doing.

Nick Novak (Host)
Well and a lot of you know the things that you did are things that you know we've seen throughout the industry which you know goes to show you that the private sector has really responded you know and like you said you know you were putting your employees safety first and you know trying to make sure that not only getting your workers who weren't on the factory floor being able to work from home, but then taking additional steps to protect the folks who were having to come into the facility each day. I wanted to talk a little bit about the specific things that your company did to assist in the COVID-19 response and one of those things was taking a 3D printer and actually switching that over to making face shields for health care workers and then also taking some equipment that you kind of changed it a little bit to make it from manufacturing garbage bags to manufacturing aprons and other PPE equipment, can you talk about some of those changes that you made?

Ricardo Abud
Yeah definitely there was a initiated by some of our own employees and the need for the mask some face shields was there we had people in the front lines fighting this virus and in some cases they didn't have the proper PPE because the availability was not there, so some employees at CMD from engineering design the headbands and that will go around the face shield and they start manufacturing headbands for the face shields and we partner with another supplier that provides the shields themselves and we put those devices together and we were able to donate to local institutions that were in first line fighting the COVID virus so that was well received in our community. We had several requests for changing our technology with aprons, gloves, etc., but we were so busy that it would have although we explore those opportunities we were so busy during that period of time that it would have taken too long for us to come up with those products, so we didn't pursue any further, Nick.

Nick Novak (Host)
And, we've talked with a lot of manufacturers on this podcast, obviously the Manufacturer of the Year awards which is put on by WMC, Baker Tilly and Michael Best you know, we recognize excellence in manufacturing and clearly this year CMD is one of those companies that is an honoree for the program you know if you had one you know thing that you could look back on and say you know this is a lesson that we learned that that's really going to help us moving forward what would that lesson be?

Ricardo Abud
We learn a lot of lessons, not just for dealing with the virus, but also as an organization for example if you talk about culture until today we have 50 of the workforce at CMD working from home, so a great learning is how to keep that culture together and that employee engagement that was a huge learning for us trying to motivate people that are working remotely and as well as motivating the employees at CMD. That family feeling of traditional manufacturing environment was disrupted, we divided the family so that was a an important learning that I don't think is going to go away and I think it's going to stay there, but leaders need to realize that especially leaders from traditional environments such as manufacturing need to realize that I think that's going to stay and we need to deal with it.

Nick Novak (Host)
Another topic that we're going to get into is kind of chatting about the future of CMD, the future of the industry, we're going to do that when we come back. We're going to take a short little break here, we are talking with Ricardo Abud the President at CMD Corporation, thanks for sticking with us and we will be right back.

Voiceover
Wisconsin Made. The Podcast. is brought to you by Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year, a premier annual awards program celebrating excellence in manufacturing in the state of Wisconsin. Thank you to our program sponsors Baker Tilly, Michael Best and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.

Nick Novak (Host)
Welcome back to Wisconsin Made. The Podcast. We are joined today by Ricardo Abud, President of CMD Corporation and in our first segment we were talking about some of the safety precautions and some of those direct responses that CMD did to get through the COVID-19 pandemic, but I want to talk with you, Ricardo, a little bit more about kind of the latter path of the pandemic because your company really innovated quite a bit and had you know had a lot of technology that you guys implemented to make sure you could continue to communicate with your customers and continue to operate your company, can you tell us a little bit about that?

Ricardo Abud
Sure like I said before, Nick, from March to September or August time frame, we were focusing on safety for the employees at that time. Those were the essential employees and that time we had 50 of the workforce working from home so we needed some new tools to conduct business as normal as possible, so we deploy new hardware screens, cameras microphones to people and also we purchase iPads for individuals in assembly at the facility so the connectivity between remote workers and people at the facility could be there because business needed to be conducted. We need to deliver on our commitments, we purchase virtual reality goggles so we could service our international and all our customers, including domestic customers, because we were limited to travel not just because of the policies of CMD, but also where customers were not accepting people in their facilities, so we deployed those goggles. They worked very well so we were able to serve our customers, we also installed some cameras around the equipment for checkouts which is equipment validation our customers could not come and look at equipment as before so they were they had to look at the validation of the equipment remotely so we had those cameras, we had attended ratios using cameras around the equipment so it was very helpful, all the technology that was available and we were able to maximize those. 

Nick Novak (Host)
It sounds like you were able to put that in place pretty quickly in the last year and so I mean that's just fantastic that that you were able to do that and technology as we just talked about is going to be a big part of the future of manufacturing for CMD and the industry in general so let's talk a little bit about that future, where do you see and you know the rest of 2021 for your company? What do you see as additional challenges that might come up and what are maybe some opportunities as well?

Ricardo Abud
I think the challenges that we're going to have is still managing the information although the information has been limited lately, but still as leaders we need to make sure that we check the sources of information and be able to provide guidance to our employees. Technology is going to be something new that has ingrained in 2020 and it has evolved and will continue to evolve to become a better tool for manufacturers for example we had a white board an electronic white board where people could bring drawings and have virtual meetings, having the schematics and working about projects that platform has changed tremendously and it's been a very useful tool for us so the future I think is going to be more interaction perhaps virtually although the human face-to-face interaction is important, but I think it's going to be a shift into using more virtual tools at CMD, we have those already and we're going to try to maximize its usage because has proven to be beneficial to us.

Nick Novak (Host)
And we've talked with a number of manufacturers on this podcast about you know the new work from home kind of expectation, I guess that there is from some employees how do you see your company moving forward with potentially having some people who want to work remotely while you still have folks who have to come in to the facility to actually manufacture something because you can't do that you know sitting in your home office?

Ricardo Abud
Yeah I think that that is going to stay, not just in the manufacturing environment, I think in all other industries. CMD, we value we perform very well 2020 was a an excellent year for CMD, as a matter of fact we were fortunate to find people and able to increase the workforce in 2020 by 25 percent. This gave us the opportunity to deliver in our commitments while supporting the people in our community with meaningful jobs and finally Nick, we did a performance survey of employees on the level of efficiency and what tools they needed to perform their tasks while performing from home we were able to close those gaps so employees that are performing very well and if they want to stay working from home I think that idea should be entertained.

Nick Novak (Host)
And I want to talk more broadly about the manufacturing industry as I talked about you know this is you know kind of a replacement for the Manufacturer of the Year awards something that WMC, Baker Tilly and Michael Best do each year, we can't be together at The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee like we normally would celebrating all of these amazing manufacturers in our state, but we hope to be back next year, we hope to you know see everybody in person again, but I want to talk about the kind of the next year, next two years, three years for the industry you know, do you think that COVID-19 has really kind of improved manufacturing in Wisconsin you know maybe made some changes that were that were helpful that are going to help you know move it forward from whether that be a technology standpoint, an innovation standpoint, but where do you see the industry going?

Ricardo Abud
That is a very good question Nick, I would not use the word improve but I think has opened up some options. They are perhaps if we explore and those are in hinge can bring the level of manufacturing to a true improvement so it could be a step change in the future, we just need to embrace and learn how to use those tools more efficiently and of course those tools need to evolve but I think it gave us a little bit of a peek of what the potential is of using new technologies and remote access to information.

Nick Novak (Host)
Well and clearly there were a lot of companies and individuals that were just economically devastated by COVID-19. Obviously it's good news for the folks at CMD that it was a strong year, you were able to make the changes necessary to you know to keep folks on the job and so before we wrap up here because we just have about 30 more seconds before we before we have to wrap up, if you had a chance to talk with your employees you know imagine you're on the stage at the Manufacturer of the Year awards and you had a chance to just kind of tell your employees you know a thank you or just kind of what you saw in the last year from them you know, what would that message be?

Ricardo Abud
The message would be first to thank them for coming together and able to overcome the limitations that we had and the challenges that we have in 2020. Also, to recognize that manufacturers is so essential for Wisconsin's economy, it is especially in the Fox Valley, really it's something to be proud of. It's great when you go to another country and you see our technology there and we're proud to see that technology was manufactured in Appleton, Wisconsin, so it's so strong for us and one of the challenges that we have Nick will be to continue with the labor force, that's a you know besides the pandemic I think that is a struggle that we have in manufacturing and we need to hopefully resolve this issue because manufacturing in Wisconsin is a pillar for the economy.

Nick Novak (Host)
Well and I know where we I want to follow up on that question because I know we're running out of time here, but you know talking about the labor force you know what do you think manufacturers can do to attract more people into the industry knowing that it's such a big part of Wisconsin's economy?

Ricardo Abud
Currently I can speak for CMD, we have several relationships at the high school level and colleges to motivate and perhaps promote CMD and manufacturing for the way of the future, really now that industries are coming back to manufacturing in the US is extremely important that industries build up that network with high schools and institutions that are training and preparing the workforce, we have some internships at CMD to help people that are thinking about coming into manufacturing to at least introduce that and see if they would like to continue in manufacturing. I’ve been in the manufacturing world for over 30 years and I see the importance of manufacturing Wisconsin, I think the community needs to come together not just the industry, but also the leaders in the community and come up with a plan for a long-term plan for manufacturing in Wisconsin.

Nick Novak (Host)
Well I think we definitely know that the manufacturing leaders are community leaders and that's a big thing that we've learned on this podcast and talking with manufacturers all across Wisconsin. Ricardo Abud, President of CMD Corporation, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today.

Ricardo Abud
Thank you Nick, thank you for the opportunity.

Nick Novak (Host)
Well that has been our conversation with Ricardo Abud, President of CMD Corporation in Appleton. Next week in our last episode of Wisconsin Made. The Podcast. we will highlight OEM Fabricators from Woodville, Wisconsin and talk about some of the challenges, opportunities and successes that they face over the past year. Plus, we'll learn more about what the future of manufacturing is as we all move past this COVID-19 pandemic. If you found value in this episode, please hit that subscribe button and share it with your peers. For now, this is Wisconsin Made. The Podcast. I’m your host Nick Novak, thank you for listening.

Voiceover
This is Wisconsin Made. The Podcast. The show that takes you inside the strength and resilience of Wisconsin's manufacturing community where we hear from Wisconsin's CEOs and executives to learn about their challenges, opportunities and success navigating their business throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you to our program sponsors Baker Tilly, Michael Best and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.