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Local Company Involved in Production of Virus Tests

A local manufacturer that specializes in making injection mold bases is busy supplying clients that manufacture COVID-19 testing materials. Vincent Tool, in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin employs about 25 machinists, with all but a few graduates of CVTC’s Machine Tooling Technics program like owner Ken Skar.

Skar explained that his clients are contractors or sub-contractors involved in the manufacturing of the COVID-19 tests, other personal protection equipment safety items, and respirators and ventilators for countries facing a shortage. The clients are in need of custom-built injection molds to mass produce parts. The work is challenging for his team.

“We’re definitely all-hands-on-deck with the lead times for the COVID-19 work,” Skar said. “We normally have a four-to-eight week lead time on projects, but now we’re turning them around in a week to a week-and-a-half.”

Skar added that the work involves working with other Chippewa Valley manufacturers as well.

“Our workers haven’t had to work additional overtime shifts, as overtime is a normal part of our operations,” Skar said. “We’re continuing with the hours we’ve been working, but with added stress.”

Manufacturing has been exempted form stay-at-home orders as essential businesses, especially those involved in manufacturing related to medical equipment.

“We want the community to understand the importance of manufacturing in this fight against the COVID-19 outbreak,” Skar said.

“None of the local machine shops closed during the stay at home order,” said Wade Reese, CVTC Machine Tooling Technics instructor. “Their challenge hasn’t been continuing operations during the pandemic, but the ongoing problem of finding enough trained machinists. We have low numbers in our program, with numerous available jobs in local industry.”

Reese noted that Skar has done a good job recruiting CVTC students and graduates to his shop in a highly competitive atmosphere in which graduates of the program are prized by shops all over the area.

One Vincent Tool employee just completed his third semester in the two-year program, Reese said. The employee was one of the students allowed back to CVTC facilities for lab work during the lockdown. Technical college programs that supply workers for essential businesses were allowed to have limited in-person instruction with strict guidelines, Reese said.

“Students came back to the CVTC machine tool lab to apply what they learned online,” Reese said. “There is no substitute for face-to-face, hands-on learning, but I think we were able to take a difficult situation for everyone and turn it into a successful and positive learning experience.”