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Local Manufacturers Stagger Shifts, Implement Social Distancing During Virus Outbreak

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Superior Diesel
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Manufacturers in the Northwoods don’t foresee going back to “business as usual” any time soon.

Most are exempt from having to close under Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order, but their operations have had to change significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Superior Diesel in Rhinelander, production staff now fan out across the facility to keep a safe distance from each other.  The engine production company has also staggered shifts to keep as few people together in the plant as possible.

“It’s a little bit of a challenge.  It adds a little bit of time.  At the end of the day, we’re still able to accomplish the things that we need to accomplish,” said President Brian Wendt.  “Again, it’s not ideal, but it’s what we have to do.”

Superior Diesel administrative staff are working from home.

But the majority of the 68 people employed in Rhinelander are still showing up to work regularly, since the company is considered essential.

“It’s not necessarily what we’re doing here.  It’s what we’re providing our customers, their dealers, their customers and end users,” Wendt said.  “We provide a lot of materials for backup generators and primary generators.  We also do a lot with the railway and highway infrastructure.”

Wendt is prepared for the new template to be in effect for an extended period of time.

“This isn’t something that’s going to be short-lived.  I think the spread of the virus, we’re going to see it peak like we’ve seen in other areas of the world.  But it’s not going to be business as usual, even after we see that peak start to subside,” he said.

Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer-at-Home order last week forced many types of businesses to close, but it exempted several others, including manufacturers.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.