We are back: Making Knives on the Cutting Edge of Caution.
On April 13th, we reopened our factory and resumed full production of knives and accessories. The minds that produce the sharpest knives in America got together to figure out how to keep things safe and get back to work, introducing strict protocols to protect the health and safety of our knifemakers. The process of figuring out the details made us realize it is possible to reopen the economy and protect ourselves from the coronavirus. It is not an either or proposition, at New West KnifeWorks, we can do both. Like making fine knives, it just takes precision and balance. We’ve shared our factory protocols below as a model for how America can responsibly transition back into business.
In mid March, New West Knifeworks shut down the majority of all our business operations- all of our retail stores were closed. We also shutdown the factory to upgrade our safety procedures to protect our employees from the spread of coronavirus. By the time we had the systems in place, we realized with no retail stores open, there was not enough demand for inventory to resume production. By the end of the month we had gone from 35 employees to 8. Furloughing people was one of the hardest things NWKW owner Corey Milligan has ever done. In the end, there wasn’t a choice. “If we kept paying all of our employees with almost no revenue, we would be dead in a month. I’m not rich. I couldn’t just take it out of my own pocket, my pockets aren’t that deep,” Milligan explains.
The only remaining outlet was online. March and April are not big months online and the internet only represents about 25% of New West Knifeworks business, so the outlook was pretty bleak. Then a miracle happened. The internet started to blow up- by Mid April, sales online increased by 250%. With three retail shops closed, this online boost has allowed us to survive and keep making more knives.
What blew up the Internet?
A lot of Americans are stuck at home with not much to do but shop online and cook. Most of our customers enjoy cooking, but very few have cooked ALL of their meals everyday for weeks at a time. That much time on the cutting board brings into sharp focus the importance of a good cutting tool. It is fortunate that many of us that can afford fine cutlery have not felt the full impact of the economic collapse. The money saved on this months “going out to eat bill” more than pays for the addition of a new tool for the kitchen.
But the increase in home cooking isn’t the whole story. The increase in business also stems from an outpouring of support for NWKW’s efforts with WE ARE Jackson Hole and the creation of hand sanitizer for our community. The messages of support received in the notes of online orders has been deeply gratifying.
Open the economy AND Flatten the Curve
We resumed full production in our factory April 13th. It’s our belief that restarting our economy and keeping ourselves safe is not an either or proposition. We’ve put in added safety protocols guided by the following thought experiment. Imagine that you currently have Covid-19, and no one around you has it yet. Imagine that everyone around you has Covid-19, and you're the only one who doesn't. Framed in this way, what can you do to keep yourself and your co-workers safe? Act accordingly. Put systems in place accordingly. We’ve added many protocols like using respirators at all times while in the building, rigorous hand and work area cleaning, foot-operated door openers and more. We have advantages that made adoption of these procedures easy. Our knifemakers already use and understand the importance of PPE in daily operations. Also, we have a very robust dust collection system that cleans the air in our facility many times an hour.
With the additional help of the Federal Government's SBA PPP program, we plan to continue production throughout the crisis. We are back up to 30 employees in week one of the program and will bring back more in the days and weeks.
Below is our factory Protocol in its entirety. We hope this inspires others to think about how America can move forward with both care and confidence.
Strict Procedures allowing for continued production at NWKW Victor:
Imagine that you currently have Covid-19, and no one around you has it yet.Imagine that everyone around you has Covid-19, and you're the only one who doesn't.
Framed in this way, what can you do to keep yourself and your co-workers safe? Act accordingly.
All communal kitchen activities are to be discontinued
Procedures and Protocols for Production Shop:
Finished goods Protocol
Finished Product Sanitation Procedure
Wipe and clean each blade and handle thoroughly using wet alcohol rag
Let Dry for 5 minutes
Wear Gloves and then Oil and sheath all knives
Allow to sit on cart for 3 days to let virus die
Exiting Shop Protocol
Work surfaces and floors at end of day:
CDC Recommendations for Cleaning and Sanitizing Household Surfaces and Items
Amount of Bleach
and Water to Mix
Area or Item to be Cleaned
Surfaces that do not soak up water.
Examples: Floors, stoves, sinks, certain toys, countertops, flatware, plates, and tools.
5 tablespoons(1/3 cup)
Following Covid-19 Procedures and Disciplinary Actions for Infractions
We expect all employees to follow these strict procedures at all times to maintain the safety of yourself and coworkers. Failure to follow protocol will be handled accordingly:
1st Infraction: Stern Warning and reminder of corrective actions
2nd Infraction: Employee will be asked to go home for the day and review Covid 19 Procedure policies before returning to work
3rd Infraction: Employee will be asked to remain home for the remainder of week, review Covid-19 Procedures, and reevaluate commitment to return to work and follow protocol.
We need every employee to work together and take this very seriously for these measures to work and to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus in the workplace.