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Proven Adaptability | An Interview with Eastman Machine Company

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

By Composites in Manufacturing

In a Q&A session, Composites in Manufacturing hears the thoughts of Eastman Machine Company on how the company is dealing with the impact of Covid-19 and how it is helping to support its customers.

As a fifth-generation, family-operated company, Eastman believes in building strong customer relationships. The company has always worked in tandem with industry engineers to design, build and customise cutting solutions, allowing manufacturers to overcome various challenges. Eastman says that the pandemic has afforded it the opportunity to listen even closer, enhancing its ability to respond to customers’ needs in a timely fashion.

What particular aspect has helped your company get through the pandemic?

Covid-19 is not the first crisis Eastman has experienced and survived – World War I, the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, the Great Depression and World War II. As a small-cap manufacturer, Eastman was able to quickly focus resources to support current customers as they shifted composites, or other market, production units into machines that could be used to cut PPE essentials.

Do you have any positive ‘good news’ stories that your company has performed, i.e. pivoting to manufacture PPE for the medical sector, etc.?

Hundreds of Eastman customers across the globe successfully converted operations to manufacture PPE.

Eastman fielded calls from current customers who traditionally cut flexible materials for applications as varied as skis, window blinds and boat hulls who transitioned their operations to produce masks, hospital bedding, gowns, face shields, curtains, gloves, medical wipes, laboratory coats, and other PPE. Eastman’s software applications team was with them every step of the way and provided support by creating new cutting patterns, recommending blade and machine parameters, and sourcing sought-after, in-demand materials.

From the onset of the outbreak in the US, the Eastman factory remained open, with safe distancing measures in place, to ensure shipment of parts, consumables, and even new machines.

Are there any positives in general to come out of all this?

“Covid proved our adaptability,” says Eastman’s president and CEO, Robert Stevenson. “We realised how quickly we can manoeuvre during hardship and it gave us a lot of confidence to move forward. I know the business will survive and we will continue to be there for our customers.”

Have you been using communication methods like Zoom, MS Teams, Skype, webinars, etc. to maintain contact?

All methods! Microsoft Teams is the standard inside Eastman, but generally over the last five or so months, all of its daily internal and external communication have adapted to various WebEx platforms.

What are your thoughts on the fact that there won’t be any trade shows for the foreseeable future and are ‘virtual’ trade shows now the way forward?

It is a great detriment to the industry. For Eastman, the key takeaways from tradeshows is the ability to network among industry peers, allow prospective buyers the opportunity to see, watch and work with the machines in real-life, as well as be a part of demonstrating the latest industry developments. Virtual demonstrations have obvious benefits like cost, scheduling flexibility and travel safety, which is why they’re already widely used in today’s global marketplace. Online demos and remote technical service and support have been standard for years through video calls, chats, and live streaming options.

Please provide some news on your latest product launches.

Eastman has announced recent additions to its catalogue of precision tools with the oscillating tool head and 10-sided blade for multi-axial stitched reinforcements. The tools have been engineered to offer maximum versatility and adaptability while adhering to stringent industry requirements for accuracy, speed, and repeated quality.

Where to next for the company?

Looking forward to ending the year positively and heading into 2021 with optimism as the pandemic ends with business stronger than ever.

This article was originally published in Composites in Manufacturing September 7, 2020. Eastman Machine Company is a SPESA member.

SPESA members are encouraged to email news and releases to or to be featured under Member Spotlights.

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