By Margaret Jackson | Sep 25, 2020
Safety platforms, ground support equipment the aircraft industry, mobile triage units, and construction services
The coronavirus pandemic has given HHI Corporation the opportunity to shine.
A longtime builder and manufacturer of ground support equipment for aircraft, the company unveiled its mobile triage unit, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, in September. The unit helps doctors and nurses at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital treat patients with infectious diseases like COVID-19.
In addition to helping healthcare workers isolate people with infectious diseases, the mobile triage unit is designed to provide emergency response during disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. The units, which can withstand hurricane-force winds, can provide additional hospital beds for large events or be set up in remote or rural areas where there is limited access to healthcare facilities.
"We thought, 'Why don't we just build a simple, mobile triage unit," says Cliff Hokanson, executive vice president of the company founded by his physicist father, Don Hokanson. "If one person walks into a hospital in a remote area with just 20 beds, the whole hospital would shut down. All the nurses and doctors would be completely exposed."
The mobile triage unit is set up in the hospital's parking lot. It also could be set up inside a convention center, which would prevent the spread of dirty air for locations that have established COVID-19 patient care centers in them.
It provides a secure, 100 percent self-sustainable area to house overflow patients during times of crisis. It's a prefabricated, dynamic unit that can be assembled inside or outside large facilities. All units include electrical systems powered by diesel generators and shore connections. They have four patient wings with a total of 11 beds; a nurses' station; directional air flow with 18 air exchanges per hour; HEPA filters; and potable water and waste connections.
HHI donated its first mobile triage unit to the nonprofit organization Global Surgical and Medical Support Group. HHI and Global Surgical worked directly with Jackson Health System to install the unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.
"The hospital in Miami is using it for sorting of the patients," Hokanson says. "A lot of the weird diseases from the Caribbean get flown into that hospital, which takes care of all of south Florida and the Caribbean. If [patients] have a mystery disease, they can put them in the Mobile Triage Unit to keep them separate from other patients."
HHI Corporation also has a number of government contracts to manufacture a number of products for the aircraft industry, including aircraft maintenance stands, aircraft tire trailers, and aircraft tire workbenches.
The company's base of operations is a 54-acre campus built on a historic Ogden brickyard that HHI redeveloped in 2013. The company offers a full slate of fabrication services, including CNC milling, welding, painting, and plasma cutting.
Challenges: These days, the biggest challenge for HHI is ensuring it keeps COVID-19 out of its factory. The company has adopted policies to keep its employees safe, including social distancing, requiring face masks and staying home if they're sick. "We're constantly talking about it," Hokanson says. "We're following CDC [Centers for Disease Control] policies."
The pandemic also has created issues with the supply chain. HHI has had to wait for some of the radar absorbing material it needs to make its products because one-third of the employees at the factory that supplies them were infected with COVID-19.
"We had to delay that part of the project," Hokanson says. "Thirty workers were affected because materials didn't show up. Usually we can go to an alternate manufacturer, but this was the only one that makes that product."
Opportunities: Ever the optimist, Hokanson tried to find the opportunities the pandemic presented. For example, issues in the supply chain prompted HHI to develop relationships with new suppliers. "I looked at it like, 'How can we become a better company?'" he says. "What can we do to develop new supplier relationships so if company A can't get it done, we have options."
HHI's business has been strong, so it has continued to hire more people to support increasing orders. "We're not going to lay anybody off," Hokanson says. "We've been growing and hiring good people."
Needs: Hokanson says what the company needs most are new clients it can share its innovations with. "We're innovative," he says. "We come up with good solutions that are economical and last multiple years."