Headquartered in Denton, TX and in business since 1956, Kieffer | Starlite employs about 230 people and maintains approximately 250,000 sq. ft. of production space in Denton, TX, Mount Airy, NC and Sheboygan, WI. Retail, hospitality and quick-service restaurants (QSRs) represent a large share of Kieffer | Starlite’s business. Ulta Beauty, Staples, Domino’s Pizza and Hilton are among some of their many clients. Kelly David, the company’s marketing director, discussed the company’s proactive response to the COVID-19 crisis.
“Back in early March, there was a lot of discussion within the company,” she said. “Local mandates where our manufacturing facilities are located drove a lot of the discussion. Our leadership team developed an emergency operational plan and created a contingency plan to maintain a chain of command in the event our president or another executive got sick. Our IT staff worked quickly so that everyone not required in the office could seamlessly work remotely.”
Because the production crew was still required to report to the facility, a number of protocols were put in place to ensure worker safety. At the Sheboygan, WI location, fabrication adapted to accommodate a second shift to ensure safe distancing. Each facility introduced a cleaning crew to sanitize common areas after each break or meal and sanitize all equipment and keyboards at the conclusion of each shift.
Customers called upon Kieffer | Starlite to brainstorm solutions that would help essential businesses who were remaining open, to comply with new safety regulations. David said, “An executive of a gas-station chain who we had built signs for reached out to us with very specific CDC-compliant guidelines for constructing partitions to ensure safe interaction between employees and customers. We’re working with plastics and metals to make signs, so it only required sourcing a few different components to create clear partitions for the checkout area, which help mitigate virus exposure.”
This initiative spurred the company to think of other ways its capabilities could help virus preparedness. Kieffer | Starlite’s production-management team began developing prototypes for medical mask clips for front-line healthcare workers who must wear masks for extended periods. The company’s COVID-19-related products include personal-protective equipment (PPE) masks and intubation shields, which provide a barrier between doctors and patients to prevent exposure to infected saliva or mucus. The company has also increased its production of vinyl floor graphics for use in enforcing social-distancing boundaries. Going forward, David foresees an increasing reliance on various forms of digital signage to enhance messaging.
“In the past, digital kiosks and reader boards were a value-add product that we didn’t always push,” she said. “Now, as customers are more likely to look for ways to keep their distance when inside a store or [QSR], kiosks are especially important in providing information from a safe distance. Exterior electronic message centers will become more important as consumers look to minimize the number of store trips, and stores seek other ways to engage them.”
Overall, the COVID-19 crisis has been a catalyst for Kieffer | Starlite to bolster its relationships. David said, “This is a real opportunity for us to check in with our customers, vendors, even competitors, to see what their needs are, or just how they’re doing. I think a greater level of communication and engagement is going to become an industry standard, and there will be movement towards greater collaboration.”