Geneva manufacturer sees significant increases in ventilator valve production

COVID-19 pandemic prompted stepped-up production of ventilator parts

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GENEVA – A small Geneva manufacturer has stepped up its production of parts for ventilator valves.

Rich Hoster, president and one of the owners of Smith & Richardson, 727 May St., Geneva, said the company has always made these.

But now, two shifts are making them at a larger, more intense scale, as ventilators are in demand since the coronavirus pandemic, going from a thousand orders to 10,000 orders.

“We had open orders before all this started with these two customers,” Hoster said. “I got a call from one of them a week and a half ago. ‘We need you to step up production.’”

That was putting it mildly.

“We now have more orders for these than we would typically see in a couple of years,” Hoster said. “We are making 10 times the number we normally would have. We’re actually working over the weekend.”

Hoster said he could not name the companies that put in the orders.

Smith & Richardson is in a 70,000-square-foot manufacturing space near Wheeler Park and has been in business since 1921.

Hoster said it has 50 employees who are split between the two shifts. Because the space is so large, employees can maintain the social distancing recommended by the CDC.

Only two employees stayed home out of caution, but Hoster said the company is very flexible in offering paid time off and sick days for anyone who doesn’t feel well or has someone at home who is ill.

“If you’re not feeling well or someone is not feeling well in your family, use your paid time off,” Hoster said. “If you have a fever, we want you fever-free for 48 hours.”

Employees should not worry about using up all their sick and vacation time, Hoster said because the company will be accommodating to them going forward.

“We need you here, we need you healthy,” Hoster said.

The company disinfects with Lysol, sprays down keyboards, touch screen keypads and most employees wear gloves.

“We are trying to do everything possible to be as clean as can be and keep everybody here healthy,” Hoster said. “We called our customers and pushed orders back because of these parts. Everyone has been very accommodating because this is lifesaving equipment.”

An individual at one of the company’s sub-suppliers asked him if the company ordering the parts was willing to pay a premium. Hoster answered no.

“I won’t be asking for an expedite fee,” Hoster said. “We are doing whatever we need to do to make sure this happens. This is a matter of life and death. We’ll worry about making money some other time.”