products and services that fulfill an immediate need while also helping operators optimize for what has become the “new normal.” “Everything has changed,” says Joe Carlson,

president at Lakeside Manufacturing, Inc., in West Milwaukee. “Dealers are being asked for items that their customers have never asked for before, and they’re also being asked to do things that they haven’t done before.” Many of those dealers are approaching manufacturers like Lakeside for help, hoping that their strong supplier partnerships can help them stabilize their own customers’ businesses. “We’re getting a high number of requests for custom-modified products, and a lot of those requests come with very tight lead times,” says Carlson, adding that the school foodservice segment is in particularly high need right now. “Lead times are going to be critical to get schools up and running this fall. We all have to get really good at getting solutions put together and in place quickly.” To adapt, Lakeside shifted its product development team’s focus over to filling a gap that wasn’t even on its radar screen a year ago: helping schools, universities, hospitals, and long-term care facilities overcome the logistical challenges of delivering food in a timely manner to people who once dined in cafeterias. That has meant factoring delivery, food safety, and labor into the product design process. So far, Lakeside has introduced more than 25

new products – ranging from classroom meal delivery carts to hand sanitizer stands to COVID

traffic rails. “Since communal dining is no longer feasible in long-term care settings, schools, and universities,” Carlson says, “these organizations have to go to where the students or residents are; food has to be delivered in different ways.”

Demand for Sanitization Similar shifts are also taking place in restaurant kitchens across the nation, where the need for social distancing has created new workspace needs. At Hialeah, Fla.-based AmeriKooler, LLC, President and CEO Gian Carlo Alonso says the need for over-the-top sanitization; more expansive cold food storage to accommodate increased inventory levels; and products that support higher food delivery volumes are driving some of the innovation on the manufacturing front. “We started making an air purifier that kills all bacteria and that disinfects airborne viruses,” says Alonso, who came up with the idea about four years ago, thinking it would “fly off the shelves” when introduced to operators. That didn’t happen. “We couldn’t pay people to take it, so the whole idea was kind of just panned.” That sentiment, however, changed when COVID-19 hit: “I have a lot of people calling now, asking about the sanitization technology that we developed,” Alonso says. “The tables have completely turned, and everyone wants equipment that cleans and purifies the air and reduces the risk of any sort of transmission of any illness.” Since the company relies on parts from external suppliers to make the air purifiers, AmeriKooler is experiencing long lead times for those products right now.

“Lead times are going to be critical to get schools up and running this fall. We all have to get really good at getting solutions put together and in place quickly.”

—Joe Carlson President Lakeside Manufacturing, Inc. West Milwaukee, WI

8 FEDA News & Views

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