In 2015 the Panels Plus product line was moved from our sister company, Lou-Rich to Almco. At the time Roger Paul was the general manager of Panels Plus because this product line was basically run as a separate company. This mostly continued when the product line was moved to Almco and Roger continued to manage the company even as I became the general manager of Almco on January 1, 2019. Roger retired at the end of May and I officially became the general manager of Panels Plus at that point. I worked with Roger for many years and he has great knowledge of the building industry’s use of wall panels and other components. He is also very knowledgeable about manufacturing methods that relate to how we build our products. Roger will be missed at Panels Plus and Almco and I wish him the best in his retirement.
We had a very busy start to the year with the highest incoming orders on record for a January. Then the coronavirus got the best of the United States and many businesses struggled. The Panels Plus orders really dropped and I wondered if it would take years to climb back from that fall. We kept busy building standard product so that we could offer quick delivery when the business came back. This was working well until two employees at or sister company were diagnosed with COVID-19. We were shut down for 2 weeks and people were mostly working from home after that. Many people were furloughed because of the stay at home order in Minnesota. Fortunately, it didn’t last very long for us at Panels Plus and Almco and we are now nearing a record month for incoming orders in July.
A current in-house project is the building of an automated sheathing bridge. This unit will import data from a software file (by others) and use the data to automatically nail the entire wall. The new sheathing bridge has new features, new controls and more robust and accurate drive components. The nail gun will follow the crown of the wall (if present) via a laser measuring beam to make sure that nail depth is consistent regardless of the wall flatness. This new bridge is nearing assembly and will be tested for many, many cycles to see how it performs.
This is the first of the Panels Plus products to be automated and integrated with a 3rd party software. Our plan is to take Panels Plus to the next level to make it easy to automate with our customer’s software so they can be as efficient and productive as possible. Prior to COVID-19, we had planned to add more people to increase the capacity at Panels Plus and we hope to get back to that soon and update all our products to make them automation-ready. We will still offer our existing line of equipment for those that don’t plan to use the automation.
It appears that it will be a very busy second half of the year at Panels Plus. I hope that you and your business are doing well. We hope to work with you soon.