SABETHA, KAN. — Despite challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Wenger Manufacturing, Inc. announced June 9 it is on schedule to complete its new-and-improved technical center in Sabetha in the fourth quarter of 2020.

“The pandemic has not disrupted plans or impeded progress with the upgrade,” said Brend King, vice president and technical center director at Wenger. “We have excellent momentum – construction of the new building is hitting every milestone while the Technical Center is still fully operational inside.”

Protocols inside the existing technical center have been modified, Wenger explained, to create a “low-risk testing environment for new products and processes” as the virus lingers. This includes limiting physical access to the facility and supplementing with digital tools such as images, videos and data sheets about its research and development projects.

“Thankfully, this is temporary,” King said. “Customers have been very understanding and cooperative with these less-than-ideal, but necessary, changes to protocol. We’re tremendously proud and grateful to have earned trust in the industry so that clients are comfortable letting us conduct runs on their behalf. And in those instances where clients must be present, Wenger has shifted projects to a timeframe when restrictions are loosened.”

PMI Nebraska LLC and CL Construction, two Nebraska-based design and construction firms, have been maintaining the construction schedule throughout the pandemic, Wenger said, along with its other project partners: Pinnacle Electric, PCI Mechanical, Schenck Process, Scott Equipment and IPS.

The new structure is currently being built around the existing technical center, allowing the company to continue using its technical center. Once finished, the technical center’s capacity will be increased by 40% and capable of housing full-scale versions of almost all Wenger’s commercial equipment.

New features inside the technical center include improved scalability, enhanced preventive food safety measures, and increased versatility and longevity of the facility.

Wenger reported the steel framework of the new facility is weeks away from completion. The company anticipates the new exterior to be finished in July, and to demolish the old interior building in August.

“Clients need us to continue functioning so they can meet their objectives, and we are committed to remain open and operational during this unpredictable time,” King added. “Our ingenuity drives us, and with persistence and flexibility we’ve found ways to work around the COVID-19 curveballs and stay open for business.”

Wenger has implemented temperature checks during the mornings, limited contact between employees, and encouraged social distancing and hand washing practices to keep employees and visitors safe. The company has also increased sanitation of frequently touched surfaces.

“Safety is always a top priority at the Technical Center, pandemic or not; and because many of our processes deal with food products, our standard safety practices match up well with public health guidelines for COVID-19,” King concluded. “It was easy to build social distancing measures onto the sound health and safety practices we already had in place.”

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