In response to the unprecedented global health crisis, solidarity initiatives are emerging in different sectors. Monin Mécanique has been particularly responsive. From the start of the crisis, this industrial SME in the precision machining field redefined its business to manufacture thousands of protective visors. Distributed at hospitals and health centers throughout the region, these visors have helped to protect medical personnel, on the front line of the fight against Covid-19.
Sébastien Monin, Managing Director of Monin Mécanique and an ECAM Arts et Métiers engineer (class of 2010) tells us about this initiative.
What is Monin Mécanique’s usual business?
We are a family business, now employing 44 people, in the precision machining field. We work for various sectors such as automotive equipment or aeronautics. For example, we create engine control parts. We operate in niche markets, and deliver high-precision products to our customers in small quantities (50 units per production run on average). Our customers are in charge of the design part, but we provide them with all of our machining expertise.
What has your company been doing to fight coronavirus?
Through our network, we were able to collect 3D printing plans for protective visors for healthcare workers. By adapting them to our manufacturing process to make a machinable version, then by liaising with our raw materials suppliers, we were able to donate these visors to the region’s healthcare facilities.
The demand from hospitals and clinics was so great that we had to create a Leetchi fund to meet their needs. This has allowed us to significantly increase our production capacity: overall, we have been able to provide more than 3,500 visors free of charge to medical staff in the region!
Fortunately, many people in our network come to help us on a voluntary basis: first of all the employees of the company, outside of their working time, as well as our families and our friends. Without them, none of this would be possible.
Why did you take this initiative?
From the start of the lockdown, we wanted to be useful by helping healthcare staff. We had the machines, the know-how and the skills: why not make them available during this extraordinary crisis? It would have been a waste to do nothing.
I am convinced that every business plays a societal role and must contribute to the common good. In times of major crisis like the one we are now experiencing, everyone must think about how they have to adapt their activity.
How has this adaptation gone for you?
The first days, we started by doing everything by hand, for example polishing, finishing, and so on. But when we realized that the manufacturing capacity had to increase, we had to get organized differently, through well-defined production cells, to optimize production. We created specific jobs and broke down production into several tasks. It reminded me of my training in Lean Management at ECAM! We also reorganized the workspaces, dedicating a room to the production of protective visors.
All our employees were motivated to take part in the fight against Covid-19! They took turns, with the volunteers, to work half-days on the necessary parts. We have never been short of manpower, including for delivery to medical centers.
How can everyone help medical staff at their own scale?
Everyone can contribute to the common good. Small streams make huge rivers!
We see a lot of outbursts of solidarity at every level: students who volunteer their time, business leaders who offer services, etc. I also think that these businesspeople must show their solidarity, in particular by helping their employees more than their shareholders.
I think that in order to get out of the current crisis, everyone at their own level must act both for the economy and for public health: we must do everything possible to limit the economic crisis – because only an economically strong country can provide its citizens with an efficient health system – while continuing to comply with protective measures and health recommendations.
How is this crisis going to change your business?
Personally, this crisis has strengthened my conviction that every company must play a key role in our society.
At Monin Mécanique, the primary aim is to keep our jobs during the lasting crisis we will probably have to face. With this in mind, we are currently working on a “part-time unemployment” basis. We will also try to stay focused on the objectives we have set for ourselves, in particular that of ultimately moving to a larger factory to have the capacity to enter new markets. And why not the healthcare market!
More generally, I think that basic human nature, split between altruism and selfishness, will not change in the future. We nevertheless hope that the type of crisis we are facing will lead both industrialists and politicians to turn to a more intelligent type of selfishness, in other words, a selfishness with a longer-term vision. We have reason to consider lasting changes anyway, and thus to remain optimistic about the future!