A Lenexa company has directed a leg of its operations toward designing and building COVID-19 protective gear for businesses and classrooms.
Under normal circumstances, Lenexa Manufacturing Company mostly focuses on providing services and products for bakeries. But now, with companies returning to in-person operations and students coming back to classrooms, the company has launched production of items designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“Because we have the capabilities and we have the relationships with other vendors, we can offer COVID products, we can manufacture these types of things that people need,” said David Latty, sales manager. “Our bakeries need them, our surrounding businesses around here need them to open safely. So we thought, let’s do what we can to help out our community and offer a product that honestly, most people probably never even thought about purchasing once in their life.”
The newly-formed company division, LMC Xpress, launched at the end of March and offers an array of barriers and dividers for classrooms, restaurants, offices and other uses. The division also produces handless door openers (which allow individuals to open a door using their foot) and touchless door openers. Latty noted that some products can be used after the pandemic is over. Servers in restaurants can benefit from foot pulls to open doors to the kitchens, for example.
“You will find some version of what we’re already making somewhere out there; everybody’s doing this,” Latty said. “We’re just trying to make new ideas and better ideas, but we’re by far not the only player in this game. Across the country, people have seen there’s a need for these things, we have the capability. We’re just trying to make the version of them that we can.”
Several local companies are utilizing these new products, including The Raphael Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, with its new see-through barrier in the front desk of the lobby area, and Made in KC, which purchased several no-touch keys to open door handles. Local businesses Associated Wholesale Grocers and The Peanut are also using some of the company’s COVID safety products.
“COVID has cost a lot of supply chain crises; it’s decimated some businesses,” Latty said. “So you have some of these people around here with international equipment that they can’t get parts for, that they’re waiting months and months for. That’s why we launched this.”
Focusing on classroom safety products
LMC Xpress’s primary interest now is in schools.
“There’s just so much uncertainty right now; you’ve got schools opening and then closing, opening in a variety of ways,” Latty said. “We’re looking to find out how we can help schools.”
Ashton Weyerman, mechanical engineer and sales associate, who designs some of the products, said the solid desk barriers, many of which are collapsible and portable, create “forced social distancing” among students in close proximity.
“With grade schoolers and students in mind, maybe this looks a little scary to an elementary school kid going into your classroom,” Weyerman said. “You can add colors and make the barriers look nicer and more attractive, less intimidating.”
Weyerman said the work gives him a chance to exercise creativity and collaborate with the rest of the engineering team while solving daily problems brought on by the pandemic.
“I do most of these designs off the top of my head; people ask me for something and the design just sort of pops in my head and I go for it,” Weyerman said. “People have a problem, it’s my job to spend hours and hours and hours trying to figure out a way to solve it. It’s kind of like a puzzle; I have a lot of fun doing it.”
Some of the barriers use clamps to secure them in place; that way, they are designed for easy removal, a day that many of the company’s clients are looking toward.
“I think everybody’s waiting for that day to come,” Latty said. “People do want to be able to take these things down eventually and not have to have the scarring of furniture and areas.”