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Oneida shifts production to help COVID-19 efforts


In April, Oneida Air Systems of Syracuse, N.Y. stepped up to the plate to fulfill a civic duty following a state regulatory order directing employers to shut down all non-essential businesses. The dust collection system manufacturer has temporarily limited its customer base to only those deemed essential during COVID-19.

“We do have this civic responsibility to produce for essential industries,” company president Robert Witter tells Woodshop News. He says the company is otherwise shut down for its core business in the wood industry but will continue taking orders for when things begin running at normal capacity again.

“We haven’t been very mercenary for the past month because we’re focusing on other things. We have customers in food processing, pharmaceutical industries, and now we’re getting manufacturing companies that are making essential products for the pandemic, but that’s still only a small percentage, about 10 to 15 percent, of what we do,” Witter adds.

Current product orders for dust collection systems and components generally serve as second tier products that facilitate essential product manufacturing. One customer includes a company building components and doors for temporary hospitals, and another includes an ATV component manufacturer that switched to making face shields for medical use.

While the company is open to new ideas and requests, Witter says he does not want to put out ideas for products that cannot be delivered.

“We’ve received many requests for Personal Protective Equipment such as masks, gowns and face shields, things you hear about every day that are in such short supply. But these are not things we can manufacture, at least not right now. We received some peripheral requests and will evaluate them to see if we can do something. We’ll do whatever we’re capable of.”

A limited team of workers remain at the plant.

“We sent everyone (else) home with full pay and benefits and we’re just in a holding pattern basically. We are having our 28th anniversary May 1. It took us a long time to get here and build the team we have so we’re going to preserve it as long as we can,”adds Witter.

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