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PGT Innovations Executive Talks Manufacturing on Tampa Bay Business Journal Panel

September 15, 2020

According to the Tampa Bay Business Journal, more than 2,800 manufacturing firms employed more than 63,000 workers prior the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, making Tampa Bay Florida’s second-largest manufacturing hub for jobs. During the ever-evolving economic landscape amid COVID-19, area manufacturers, including PGT Innovations, have adapted and pivoted.

On August 19, the Tampa Bay Business Journal hosted its “State of Manufacturing” webinar, where leaders from Tampa Bay’s business community provided an update on the current state of manufacturing in the region and how strategies have changed in the wake of the pandemic, workforce and training, the supply chain and the global economy, and what was done to pivot operations in a “COVID world”.

Bob Keller, President of PGT Innovations’ Southeast Business Unit, participated on the panel along with Beth Galic, Executive Director of Bay Area Manufacturers Association; David Klatt, CEO of Bic Graphic; Joe McBeth, Vice President of Global Supply Division – Regulated Industries Segment with Jabil; and Erin Meagher, CEO of Beneficial Blends.

When asked how PGT Innovations has handled the shift since COVID-19, Bob indicated that the transition was initially challenging. PGT Innovations made some very significant investments and put into place every safeguard that the CDC guidelines recommended – and even some beyond those recommendations. The company stepped up cleaning, made adjustments for social distancing on its production lines, and is adding temperature sensors to its facilities. The leadership team also agreed that they would not be working from home during this time. Their rationale? A majority of the company’s team members work on the manufacturing lines, so they can’t work from home. Since those team members needed to be there, the leaders all agreed they also needed to be there to support their teams.

“Today, I think all of us have probably gotten a lot better at dealing with these types of last-minute uncertainties because we’ve had to deal with them for several months,” he said. “The workforce has become very resilient.”

At the onset of the pandemic, PGT Innovations had to pivot for the potential of a slowdown in the market. Months later, the company had to pivot again in response to steady demand thanks to mandates that kept people close to home. “The markets have been more resilient, and the housing segment has held up relatively strong compared to some other industries,” Bob said. “As people are spending more and more time in their homes, they have time on their hands to do projects around the house. They’re investing in their home. Overall, you see various home center businesses reporting earnings.”

The positive news about the housing industry came with its own set of challenges, though, as it has been difficult for many manufacturers to find enough employees to keep up with the demand. PGT Innovations recently hired more than 100 employees at its North Venice headquarters; however, the company is still looking to hire more than 200 team members for manufacturing positions.

“We have openings from entry-level technicians on the shop floor to plant management with highly compensated salary roles,” Bob says.

While the pandemic has certainly brought a variety of new challenges almost daily, Bob reflected on some of the positive lessons he’s learned from it so far. “It’s really shown me the importance of being flexible, looking at all your options, and understanding what’s going on in your business in order to quickly pivot to meet a need or find creative solutions to solve any issues. I think that aspect will be enhanced when we’re done with this, and we’ll get the long-term benefits from that.”

To watch the entire Tampa Bay Business Journal “State of Manufacturing” webinar, click here.