A decline in business due to COVID-19 recently inspired the founders of a Hamilton, Ont. sheet metal company to switch gears and fill a health and safety void in the market.
IPS Metal Inc. typically supplies sheet metal to commercial and industrial projects in southwestern Ontario, but a decline in business due to the global pandemic struck their local market.
“We saw a large dip in sales (and) had to lay off one-third of (our) staff, both full time installers and fabricators,” said Justin Davis, general manager of IPS Metal Inc.
With some brainstorming, taking into account the threat of COVID-19 spread, its impact on businesses, paired with their internal resources and know-how, Davis and IPS owner Cameron Smith came up with a design for sneeze guards.
The barriers, which have become a mainstay in all businesses as a protection device against the spread of COVID-19, are made of polycarbonate material that was on hand at IPS. The material has since been constructed into shields to supply businesses that are reopening under government safety regulations.
With demand high and supply limited due to the fluidity of the current health crisis, Davis and Smith are quickly regaining ground.
It’s a good feeling knowing you’re making a difference
— Justin Davis
IPS Metal Inc.
“We have had a few places that have received quotes from other competitors, but generally, we are full out with calls and quotes,” said Davis.
To date, they are supplying to dental and medical offices, retail stores with counters, salons, accountants and insurance offices and a few stores and restaurants by offering site measurements and installation. Costs to date have been $150 for the smallest job to $2,500 for the largest, plus man hours and delivery.
One of their grateful clients is A&A Exhaust Systems in Hamilton, Ont. an exhaust and emissions solutions provider. They recently had a 36-inch-by-32-inch barrier with mounting brackets installed, a size IPS had in stock and could quickly provide.
“We have a parts display (area) that is essential for some sales and services. Keeping everyone safe during transactions is imperative. The barriers allow us to interact and service our customers. A more normal transaction takes place and safety isn’t compromised,” said A&A office manager Darlene Alford, adding, “we very much appreciated their efforts and products to solve a large problem.”
As provincial and municipal leaders work with health officials to reboot the economy by getting people back to work and play while adhering to healthy practices, IPS is keeping pace by filling the need for guards in both essential and non-essential businesses.
Davis, a lifelong golf pro, most recently at Credit Valley Golf and Country Club, made the move to manage IPS two years ago and given his professional history, saw the need for plexiglass inserts for golf carts.
“The current rule for golf carts is to allow one rider per cart unless family. There are a lot of golfers who need carts in order to play and (this) also hurts the course revenue stream with being limited to cart use. This is not a mandate to my knowledge, it’s just an opportunity to have more people playing and help the industry,” said Davis.
He and Smith are now finalizing a universal device to hold the dividers in place as carts can vary from course to course and then can start taking orders.
“So far we have contacted courses on the east coast and here in Ontario. No reason we can’t cover all of Canada,” Davis said.
As a result of this unexpected change in their business model, Smith and Davis have called back a few of their key staff, including a field supervisor and production manager;
“We are lucky, very lucky to be busy and working during this time. Hopefully the faster non-essential business gets the proper safety measures in place as per the government guidelines everything can get closer to normal again. We are just glad we can be a small part of the big picture for our local business. It’s a good feeling knowing you’re making a difference,” said Davis.
Prices on the golf cart models have not been finalized yet. Since the set-in of COVID-19 and its ripple effect on their business, IPS’s sales were down 40 per cent, but the sneeze guards have so far kept them afloat.