Companies take measures against coronavirus

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

With the coronavirus outbreak, both Kimball International and Kimball Electronics have taken needed precautions for the Jasper-based companies’ operations in China.

Lonnie Nicholson, chief human resources officer of Kimball International, said the company has been actively managing the situation and following the precautions that have been issued by health authorities.

“The safety of our employees is always our top priority,” he said.

Kimball International implemented a travel ban to and from China. “We monitor daily regarding other countries and will be adding to the travel ban list this week,” Nicholson said. “Our travel restrictions follow the guidance of the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and the U.S. State Department.”

He said that employees who were in China during the outbreak were quarantined for 14 days before they returned to work; that included Kimball International’s China supply chain sourcing office in Guangdong Province.

“We have had no Dubois County employees return from China or other countries with travel advisories in place since the virus outbreak,” Nicholson said. “With the travel ban to China in effect, no employees are traveling to and from China for business.“

Kimball International has a procurement office in China, and employees who are employed in China worked from home for at least 14 days under quarantine, Nicholson said.

“Our offices were sanitized,” he said, “and employees were given access to needed personal protection equipment needed such as N95 face masks. We also implemented mandatory temperature checks for anyone entering our offices in China.”

Kimball Electronics has also been working to keep its employees safe.

“Ever since reports about the coronavirus began to happen, we naturally became very concerned about the health, safety and well-being of our employees in China,” said John Kahle, who serves as vice president, general counsel, chief compliance officer and secretary at Kimball Electronics.

The company has a manufacturing facility in China: Kimball Electronics-China, located in Nanjing. the facility has 650 permanent and temporary employees. Kimball Electronics also has 40 employees at Global Equipment Services in Suzhou City in the Jiangsu Province, which Kimball Electronics acquired in 2018.

The vast majority of the Chinese workforce is now back to work, Kahle said.

“The coronavirus became major news around the time of the Chinese New Year. Our Nanjing facility was already shut down for the holiday, as is typical for businesses in China,” he said. “The holiday was extended by the government, due to the spread of the illness, so we did not resume production until Feb. 10. We did so with about one-third of our workforce at first.”

Kimball Electronics instituted the 14-day quarantine.

“People had to prove they have remained in Nanjing 14 days before being allowed to return to work,” Kahle said “The government has now changed this so that people fill out electronic forms, and if the results are good, they can return to work immediately.”

Kimball Electronics still does daily health checks, Kahle explained. “All employees are equipped with face masks. A body temperature check at the outside entry gate is an everyday requirement,” he said. “Anyone suspected to have fever or flu cannot enter the facility. Visitors who have traveled to Hubei Province will be declined access into our plant. Third-party people will follow the same body temperature check and criteria as our employees.”

The company has canceled planned travel to Nanjing since the outbreak. “We currently have restricted employee travel before March 15,” he said. “The travel restrictions include countries based on [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] pronouncements.”

Both companies are adhering to the guidelines and recommendations being instituted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has stated that the coronavirus is spread by human-to-human contact.

“We are following guidance from the CDC that the virus cannot be transmitted on packaging and cartons from China,” Nicholson said. “We are still importing materials from China.”

Kimball International has also been managing its supply partners closely, Nicholson said. “We have supply partners in Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines, and Mexico to flex some demand to as needed.”

Kahle said Kimball Electronics is working with its suppliers.

“We are continuing to work with our suppliers to identify any potential supply disruptions,” he said. “We continue to work closely with all of our customers to meet their requirements as best we are able under the circumstances.”




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