Aprilaire has expanded its facilities and workforce in Poynette to meet increasing demand for its products brought on by COVID-19.
Plans were already in motion before the onset of the pandemic.
“It was part of our infrastructure plan prior to COVID,” said Aprilaire Vice President of Human Resources Jennifer Pagels. “COVID just accelerated the need for infrastructure growth.”
Across the country, as COVID-19 raged on, the importance of healthy air, ventilation, filtration and humidity control in offices, homes and other buildings became more apparent.
Company officials said its portable room air purifiers sold out fast, almost as soon as they were stocked. Also highly sought after were whole house systems and air-quality solutions, including filters, as interest in Aprilaire products spiked exponentially.
Since 1954, Aprilaire has been manufacturing systems and equipment aimed at improving indoor air quality at both its Poynette facility and its Madison-based headquarters.
Having added 170,000 square feet to its Poynette facilities, Aprilaire has also padded its workforce, doubling the head count to 800 workers.
“We reacted quickly, hiring a lot of people,” said Pagels, adding that last year, Aprilaire was bringing in an average of 15-20 new workers per week both at its Madison and Poynette sites.
Now open at 90% functionality as it comes online, the Poynette location has a new 110,000-square-foot distribution and shipping center, plus a second, 60,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that is close behind but needs additional workers to keep up with demand.
Pagels said the distribution center filled up immediately after moving in. The second manufacturing facility will get up to speed as Aprilaire implements a new warehouse management system, according to Pagels.
“We expect it to be fully online fairly quickly,” said Pagels. The updating of the space is expected to improve workflow and efficiency.
As far as other existing facilities go, Aprilaire is also looking to invest in them, although Pagels said no final decisions have been made regarding such efforts.
Part of the company’s five-year plan, the expansion took three years to complete, but Pagels explained that building to add space really ramped up the last two years. She declined to reveal the cost of the projects.
Aprilaire didn’t need to stop production as work continued.
“It wasn’t easy,” said Pagels. “We created the world’s greatest sledding hill that nobody could sled on.”
Pagels said the relationship between the Village of Poynette and Aprilaire has been great.
Deemed an essential business, Aprilaire carried on its work during the pandemic, as Pagels said the company “moved quickly and aggressively” to institute COVID-19 safety measures “so that people could make good decisions about not bringing COVID into the workplace,” she added.
All the while, businesses and individuals were clamoring for better indoor air quality. Greater attention was given to it as more and more people were working from home, said Pagels.
From a distribution standpoint, Aprilaire needed more inventory space to move quickly to service its customers. Production also increased.
Aprilaire is still looking for workers. Pagels said another 40-50 production positions will open in the next couple of months, along with a number of professional jobs in areas such as sales and marketing, operations and engineering. The Madison location is also hiring, as the site adds shifts.
During the pandemic, Pagels said employees worked overtime and on weekends to accommodate Aprilaire’s rapid, pandemic-induced growth. Aprilaire rewarded them with incentives, including bonuses paid to those who committed to work every Saturday for 10 weeks in a row.
“Wearing masks in the heat of a production facility is not easy,” said Pagels. “We were asking a lot of them.”
Pagels said Aprilaire has always prided itself in taking care of its employees, providing well-paying jobs to help them take care of their families. She also said that Aprilaire is an organization with a purpose, focusing on giving back to its communities. Pagels also said the company is excited to provide healthy air to people, helping them overcome asthma, allergies and other breathing issues.
“A lot is made in the media about outdoor air quality,” said Pagels. “But the air we breathe inside is important as well, since we’re inside most of the time.”
Just like eating healthy has been emphasized, Pagels said improving indoor air quality can have an effect on a person’s well-being.