Five Questions for Trina Henke, Chairman of Milbank Manufacturing, in the Wake of COVID-19

June 03, 2020
Trina Henke, chairman of Milbank Manufacturing, shares how her company has rapidly increased production of PPE in an effort to help in the fight against COVID-19.

1. Tell us about your business and how you have adapted to the current health crisis.

Founded in 1927 by my grandfather, Charlie Milbank, Milbank Manufacturing engineers and manufactures the highest quality meter sockets, enclosed controls, commercial enclosures and related products while offering exceptional service and value to our customers. We are a proud, family-owned American manufacturer for over 90 years.

During the current health crisis, Milbank has been committed to manufacturing the aforementioned products needed by essential companies during this trying time. In addition to normal manufacturing capabilities, we are producing personal protective equipment (PPE) to be used by first responders and medical care providers – those risking their health to protect others. Milbank used 3D printing capabilities to produce nearly 500 face shields during the very earliest days of the epidemic, all of which we donated to healthcare workers. To increase the production volume of this PPE in high demand across the nation, we invested in two injection molds: one for manufacturing the halos on face shields and one for replacing the elastic headbands with a latex-free stretchable rubber. We have the material and resources to produce an average of 3,500 complete face shields per week.

2. Tell us about what you are doing to support frontline workers and consumers in the battle against COVID-19. What are you doing to support your key stakeholders?

First, we are committed to keeping our work family safe. Our first batch of shields and masks are being used by our employees, who are keeping our essential business going. Along with the face protection, we’ve incorporated social distancing into our work schedule by staggering start times, lunches, breaks and so forth. We’ve added plexiglass shields throughout our factories and offices. Our employees have taken on the role of sterilizing their work area before shifting workstations. It’s definitely a daily team pull.

We’ve also created a volunteer corps for sewing high-quality face masks. Milbank has created a design and obtained all needed materials to make these masks. We’ve organized an effort by volunteers comprising employees, past employees and friends to sew. So far, we’ve donated 1,500 masks, with another 700 currently being sewn. We have even received requests for child-size masks to be used in daycare facilities and are continuing to try and meet this demand.

Next, we’ve donated all face shields we manufacture to those in need. In addition to local hospitals, nursing homes and public service groups, this offer has been extended to Milbank employees, family members, friends and the Milbank rep network. Our staff has been incredible in coordinating donations of face masks to groups in need.

3. Companies who have joined the front lines have been forced to ramp up efforts quickly. What prepared/enabled your company to respond successfully with such short notice?

Our people have been nothing short of amazing. Our engineering team took a simple prototype and worked day and night coordinating their efforts with production to create a high-quality product that we are proud to present to any frontline worker. Our manufacturing employees have risen to the challenge of enhancing our capabilities during this time. We are thankful that our workforce remains healthy, with only a few testing positive for COVID-19. Last and certainly not least, it has been very helpful that our supply base is performing well and delivering our orders on time.

4. Have you partnered with any charities in your efforts? If so, how have you worked together?

Milbank has provided financial support to Synergy Services, which offers a full continuum of care in the Kansas City area to assist individuals and families with immediate respite from violence and services that empower clients to find and choose good options for future safety and success. The organization used our donation to buy Grubhub gift certificates, allowing these families to celebrate and enjoy a Mother’s Day dinner.

5. When and how will things get back to normal for Milbank?

The better question is, what is normal? Companies all over the world are asking that same question. The city of Kansas City lifted its stay-at-home order on May 15. We made the decision to wait until June 1 to start bringing employees back to the corporate office. While we waited, we made some changes to protect our employees – for example, adding plexiglass in areas with short partitions, limiting the number of people in the office at one time, continuing to monitor for temperature or symptoms of the virus and wearing face masks or shields while in the office. As these are unprecedented times, more or different changes may take place as the world learns more about the virus. Our first priority will always be the safety of our employees. Many of the changes mentioned above have already been implemented in our manufacturing facilities. Department heads have kept employees updated on the status of their return. Communication is critical when the information is changing on a daily basis. We are making sure to reach out to our employees more than ever before.

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