Supply chain challenges due to COVID-19 pandemic force local company to get creative

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Call it the "Pandemic Rewiring" at a northwest suburban small business the I-Team first reported on last November.

JHB Group, run by former firefighters, first pivoted from making fire safety simulators to building mobile units for COVID testing last year. Now a supply chain backlog has the JHB Group pivoting again to help bring vaccines where they are needed.

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When COVID spiked the first time, a northwest suburban small business stopped making fire safety simulators and started building out mobile units for testing and eventually administering vaccines.

"We are actually throttling our orders right now, because of all the delays in production throughout the country. We're battling everything from metal to wood to circuits. It's pretty fascinating. People don't really understand the ripple effect of just wood as an example or metal that is preventing us from really meeting our deadlines," said Christopher Gantz, JHB Group CEO.

Gantz said special wood they use inside the mobile units is in short supply. He told the I-Team the manufacturer said the only way to obtain the amount JHB Group needs, is to visit big box hardware stores in the area and buy up what they have left.

"Adapt and overcome. You know my crew and I are, a lot of them are firefighters, and are retired, and that motto sticks with us because we have to get these done," said Gantz.

When they couldn't get another part they needed, they just made it themselves.

"We've built our own skid basically like little skids for the back of them to keep the back protected," said Gantz. "But we found material local that we could use, and we've just kind of come up with our own solution. It actually works better."

The company recently outgrew its old space and moved into an airplane hangar in Lake In The Hills. Ten units are currently in production with some headed to Indiana, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Additional units are staying in Illinois, going to DeKalb and two southern Illinois counties.

"We have a couple departments that have purchased them really for the at-risk populations where they don't have the access to be able to come and go to a mass vaccination site, or they might be in more rural location," Gantz told the I-Team.

Gantz said he is humbled by the whole experience.

"I think all of us have come out of the pandemic with a little resilience," said Gantz.

Industry insiders say not all supply chain issues will linger. Shipping costs are expected to go down once more people are vaccinated and things opens up. However, there is a call to build up inventories in crucial supplies such as computer chips and medical equipment.
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