An End-of-Year Interview with Gilero’s CEO
It’s safe to say that 2020 did not go the way any of us planned. I sat down (virtually, of course) with Ted Mosler, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gilero, to discuss the state of the company and plans for the future as this year finally comes to a close.
Given everything that’s happened in 2020, how does where Gilero is now differ from where you expected us to be?
“We expected Gilero to grow significantly in 2020. Even though COVID has been difficult for obvious reasons, we’ve still been able to see significant growth opportunities, although not in the ways that we had planned. Our design & development business has grown, but not in the manner or at the volume that I had anticipated. We didn’t have the opportunity to travel and visit customers, attend trade shows, or network in the ways that we usually do. We also had to delay the opening of our third design center. Our manufacturing business, however, has grown at a much faster rate than expected. The global need for PPE due to the pandemic, and the fact that we had the capacity to manufacture some of these products, allowed us to fast-track the scale-up of our manufacturing facility. We were able to produce products that people needed and hire folks who were out of work to help us do it. The company is still on track. We just took a different route to get where we needed to be. Overall, I’m very happy with the company’s performance despite the challenging environment.”
Have we still been able to achieve our goals this year as a company?
“Absolutely yes. We’ve been able to achieve our overarching goals in 2020. The breakdown of how we got there, design & development versus manufacturing, just worked out differently than expected.”
Gilero started manufacturing face shields, but other than that, how has the company adapted to deal with COVID-19?
“Before we were mandated to do so by stay-at-home orders, we began encouraging any employees who could work from home to do so. Most of our professional staff members worked from home, and continue to work from home, while design & development engineers only came in for lab testing, prototyping, or other things that they needed to physically be here for. At the factory, we reconfigured assembly spaces to further distance operators from one another. The entire staff there wears gloves, masks, and eye protection. We also do daily temperature checks. We are very aware of the COVID-related risks and we’re adhering to quarantine guidelines if any of our employees are exposed outside of work.”
Do you think the pandemic has changed any aspects of our business long-term?
“I do. Right now, we have about four different COVID-focused products that we’re manufacturing, and I think two of them will stay long-term. My openness to employees working remotely will continue. For the most part, it can be done successfully with high productivity and high job satisfaction. But I also miss seeing the team in the office and the typical, in-person, and often impromptu collaboration. I think that as people return to the office, continuing to work from home one or two days a week will continue to be the norm.”
The Governor of North Carolina recently visited Gilero’s manufacturing facility in Pittsboro. What was that like?
“It’s an honor to have the governor of your state interested in the work that your company is doing. Gilero was founded in North Carolina and we’ve been operating here since 2002, so we have a strong connection to the local community. When we started producing face shields earlier this year, we were donating them to local physicians, dental practices, nursing homes, and first responders. Then the Departments of Emergency Management and Health and Human Services came in and placed a large order allowing us to mass produce the face shields and help even more healthcare workers in our state. Showing Governor Cooper around was a fantastic experience, and he seemed to take a real interest in the projects that we’re working on. It’s great to have his support.”
Part of Gilero’s mission is to improve patient outcomes. Do you think we’ve done that with our projects this year?
“I think the work we’ve done this year goes above and beyond to protect patients and caregivers, especially our frontline healthcare workers. When stay-at-home orders were enacted and things with COVID got serious here in the US, our employees were willing to pour themselves into these PPE projects like 3D printed face shields and other COVID-related devices. A lot of our employees have friends and family members who are essential workers. Being able to produce products like face shields, negative pressure environments, or swabs and having such a direct and quick linkage to the product end-user, brings great satisfaction to the entire team. I think it helped boost employee morale a bit to see that we can make a difference and do something more to help those who are battling this virus head-on.”
What are you looking forward to most in 2021?
“I’m looking forward to the day when we can get back to work with some sense of normalcy. Of course, we have a ways to go until that happens. We need to see case counts go down and get people vaccinated, which I’m sure everyone is looking forward to. I look forward to engaging in-person with our customers, vendors, and Gilero team members once it’s safer to do so.”
What’s next for Gilero?
“We have a lot of product lines that will be scaling up manufacturing in 2021. Right now, for instance, we have four separate product lines that are ready to go, but are just waiting on clearance from FDA. Once that comes, that’s going to drive a lot of activity early in the year. We also expect that our design & development business will continue to grow as there are several sizable programs slated for Q1. Our Gilero Ventures team is fully staffed and they’ll be responsible for launching two separate spin-out companies we’re really excited about. Once the pandemic subsides, we’d like to get back to visiting customers, open additional design centers in New Jersey and Chicago, and finish site selection for our manufacturing facility in Mexico – 2021 will be an action-packed year.”