You’d think that a company celebrating its 100th year in business would be pretty stodgy and unbending.
But not UMC, Inc.
Founded in 1920, the Mukilteo company has been through the Great Depression, a world war, the infamous “will the last one leaving Seattle turn out the lights” recession in the 1970s and numerous market upheavals.
So when the COVID-19 crisis reared its ugly head, the company’s leaders quickly put pencil to paper to figure out how the company could stay afloat and keep workers on the payroll.
The opportunity? A dirty workplace. Construction by its very nature is a messy, dirty business and UMC’s on-site superintendents were already building wash stations out of plywood and utility sinks at construction sites.
Knowing that the need for pristine hygiene wouldn’t go away any time soon, especially in a global COVID-19 pandemic, the management team went to work on the solution: a portable sink that worked for any industry, any place, from the front yard of a home under renovation to the backrooms of a supermarket.
In mid-March, just as companies everywhere were thinking about layoffs and remote working, UMC was working on a new product, taking pencil to paper to design a standalone portable sink that could be moved quickly to any place it was needed.
The idea quickly took shape as UMC’s construction and manufacturing teams sprang into action, pivoting the company’s business model to get into the portable sink business.
The new sinks had to meet some pretty hefty design standards. They had to be highly portable, allow for more than one person to wash at a time while maintaining social distancing, and be CDC and ADA compliant. If that weren’t enough, they decided early on that everything should be touch-free, from the faucet and the soap to the towels.
Those in the company who didn’t make sinks sold them. Idea to prototype to production took days, not months or years, which is the norm.
Three weeks later, UMC was selling more sinks than they could have ever imagined. They were able to bring 30 of their 130 employees back to work with the hope of bringing even more back as production ramps up.
It just goes to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks. UMC’s story should be a lesson to all the young pups out there, trying to figure out a new business model in these trying times.
Read more on UMC’s website.