We’ve highlighted a number of suppliers in our #VentilatorHeroes series, mainly suppliers of the big, flashy components like pumps, flow controllers, custom panels, enclosures, and so on. Those are the elements that make a test system what it is. But what about the stuff that connects and holds all that stuff together? When you’re building something as critical as a medical device or a medical device test system, you can’t avoid sweating the small stuff.
That’s where McMaster-Carr stepped in. We depended on them for the vast majority of our hardware – literally thousands of parts. One of our senior leaders, overseeing parts receiving at the Velentium Manufacturing Facility (VMF) on a particularly intense shipment day early in the project, joked, “I feel like everyone at the VMF, including me, works at McMaster-Carr and for all of us it is our first day on the job!”
Because we have a long-established account with McMaster-Carr, we were able to quickly and easily explain to them exactly what was going on in Project V. They then ensured that McMaster-Carr’s logistics teams found ways to get orders to us as soon as possible. In some cases, parts would be routed from a farther warehouse geographically so that the order arrived sooner, despite traveling a greater distance. They consistently got us next-day shipments to our Houston, Texas build sites, but even more amazing, they figured a courier system to get same-day shipments 2-3 times per day direct to the Kokomo, IN ventilator manufacturing plant from their Chicago warehouse, and even offered to let our other suppliers “piggyback” on their courier service.
Meanwhile, they made returns incredibly easy for us, providing a single address to send any overstock back to. They didn’t require us to do more than tell them what we were returning; they took care of finding previous orders for those items and giving us credit for what was returned. That freed us up to order rapidly and err on the side of over-ordering, which was extremely helpful as we placed multiple individual orders per day to get the hardware we needed to the various locations we needed it in.
Said McMaster-Carr Director Todd Auldridge, “Our team deserves the praise. They have been coming in every day during the pandemic and, when needed, keeping facilities open late to ensure customers like Velentium have the supplies they need to help the COVID-19 fight.”
We agree! The McMaster-Carr team was incredible throughout the project. They opened their distribution centers at any time of day and on the weekend, and they were able to take inventory from any of their five warehouses so material arrived to a build site the next day. We know we interrupted time with these McMaster-Carr employees’ families more than once, but they understood the urgency of Project V and were always eager to help.
But what about those times where a part number we were trying to order was out of stock, or wouldn’t be available soon enough? That happened almost daily. Every time, Business Operations Specialist Shari Carson found the answer. She was exceptionally talented at working with our purchasers and engineers and McMaster-Carr’s experts to identify equivalent hardware and get our orders updated and pushed through.
Working with McMaster-Carr during Project V was nothing short of astonishing. We’ve been doing great business with them for years, but never under this kind of pressure, so we had no idea just how relentlessly competent and fast-paced they could be. We’ll be forever grateful to McMaster-Carr’s #VentilatorHeroes.