Ajax Workforce Unites Behind “Essential” Status

Ajax Workforce Unites Behind “Essential” Status

Minneapolis, April 13, 2020 – Kent Djubek, president of Ajax Metal Forming Solutions, has seen a lot in his 30 years at the company. But what he sees now from his Ajax coworkers is unique. “I’m just so impressed with this workforce, and so appreciative,” Kent said. “They’re clearly inspired to keep producing parts despite what’s going on.”

What’s going on is unprecedented in the company’s 75-year history. On March 19, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, issued its Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.  It reads in part:

“If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, defined by the Department of Homeland Security . . . you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.”

The Memorandum spells out the industry DHS definitions.  Among them:

“Critical Manufacturing – Workers necessary for manufacturing materials and products needed for medical supply chains, transportation, energy, communications, food and agriculture . . . “


“Transportation and Logistics – Employees supporting or enabling transportation functions, including dispatchers, maintenance and repair technicians, warehouse workers . . .

Kent quickly realized his company would fit the DHS critical infrastructure definition. Ajax makes parts for companies that manufacture essential products in climate control, transportation, architecture, construction, auxiliary power, and related industries.  The lights would stay on.

But that coin has two sides. The first was a mild sense of relief. Ajax has never closed its doors since the company’s founding at the end of World War II. A government-ordered shut-down, even if temporary, would have been hard to bear.

Then there’s the chilling side to the DHS edict. Coronavirus is a nasty bug. Death is unlikely, but it’s happening all too often, seemingly at random. Ajax people would now stay on the job while most Minnesotans remain safely at home through May 4, as ordered Wednesday by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz.

In response, the Ajax maintenance team modified and intensified the company’s already-rigorous daily cleaning schedule. Daily reminders for each shift help keep safety measures like hand washing and social distancing front and center in everyone’s minds. Protective gear is widely distributed. 

But that’s playing defense. Those efforts yield no guarantee. Regardless of what his team does, Kent’s colleagues at Ajax might fall ill. What’s more, as Ajax people commute to and from the plant, they will need to stop for gas and supplies. That means more interaction, more public touchpoints, more risk.  Ajax colleagues would need to be courageous.

So Kent is staying positive. “We have contingency plans in place,” he said. “If the country’s economic picture darkens, we have the resources to support our colleagues and their families. Heartland Equity, our ownership partner, has our back on this.  Our financial footing is solid. We’re fortunate in that regard.”

Brandon Holmes, Ajax Production Manager, said that spirits remain high on the plant floor. “I can tell that our colleagues are proud of their designation as an essential supplier, he said. “Everyone seems happy to be working. We know we’re making a difference.”

Brandon said that communicating with coworkers before and after shifts is vital. “We share safety ideas and any new information from the CDC. We also go over the extreme-sounding information we pick up on the news or social media and set priorities. So far, we’ve made the right moves.”

Tom Ahonen, Chairman of Heartland Equity Partners, a mission-based private equity firm and an Ajax co-owner, said in a letter to the entire company that his firm would continue to support Ajax operations and colleagues through this crisis.

“As we navigate this crazy and unprecedented time together, I want my Ajax colleagues to know that my partners and I are grateful for your hard work, commitment, and spirit,” he said. “We are in this for the long haul, and shutting down isn’t good for our customers, our suppliers, or you. Together we’ll get through this season and come out the other side stronger.”

Kent agrees. “I am so very thankful that our colleagues here at Ajax are showing great courage despite unavoidable adverse conditions,” he said. “With a team like this, success is not merely possible; it’s likely.”

More content is available on the Ajax Metal Forming Solutions blog. Please visit www.ajaxmfs.com/ajax-news.

About Ajax Metal Forming Solutions

Ajax Metal Forming Solutions is an ISO 9001:2015 manufacturer that produces engineered parts for companies in climate control, transportation, architecture, auxiliary power, engineered products, and related industries. The company’s diverse ownership group includes 3rd generation family members, key company leaders, and Heartland Equity Partners, a mission-based private equity company. Ajax employs about 75 colleagues at the company’s Minneapolis campus. Visit Ajax at www.ajaxmfs.com.

About Heartland Equity Partners

Heartland Equity Partners is a Midwest investment fund focused on value creation through a process of investment, growth, and long-term retention. The fund invests in successful Upper Midwest manufacturing, value-added distribution, and business services companies that demonstrate stability and profitable growth opportunities.  Visit Heartland Equity Partners at www.heartland.fund.

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Ajax Partners With University of Minnesota Ventilator Design Team

Ajax Partners With University of Minnesota Ventilator Design Team

Minneapolis, March 30, 2020 – When it comes to COVID-19 illness, ventilators can save lives. But there’s too few to go around.

That’s why University of Minnesota Anesthesiologist Stephen Richardson came up with a ventilator design that uses low-cost, off-the-shelf parts and could be manufactured quickly.  But he needed a prototype for his design, so he turned to the U of M’s Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center (BMDC) for assistance.

The BMDC team, headed by Dr. Art Erdman, a long-time University of Minnesota mechanical engineering professor, set up an emergency manufacturing and assembly facility and is now on generation 3.2 of the ventilator prototype, now called the “Coventor.”

“To date, we have been addressing at least five projects in response to the crisis. The first is the Coventor-A COVID-19 Ventilation System,” Dr. Erdman stated Friday in a BMDC email. “We are in awe of the tremendous outpouring of all the offers to help us in our development of a low-cost ventilation system in response to the COVID-19 crisis.”

Cara Piazza, a U of M Graduate Student in Mechanical Engineering who works on the Coventor project at the BMDC, said Dr. Richardson presented his idea a few weeks ago. “We were all hands on deck with this project. It’s a great idea. We do what we do for moments like this.”

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a global shortage of ventilators, devices that are critical to the survival of many COVID-19 patients. Many ventilators were already in use by non-COVID-19 patients, leaving emergency rooms in desperation.

“What’s unique about our design is that it’s a low-cost, mass-production unit that gets the job done. It’s designed for emergency use. We can send our design all over the world, and it can be reproduced.”

Cara is responsible for working with companies who are partnering with the BMDC to design and develop parts that are not available off-the-shelf or online.  More than 300 companies and individuals submitted offers to help, she said.

Making The Connection

“There were key components of our generation 3.2 design that needed sheet metal. Through our connection with Ajax, we were able to meet a need for 25 units,” Cara said. “We may have units in hospitals next month, maybe even sooner.”

The connection happened almost by chance.  A member of the Ajax board picked up the Sunday paper and read about the BMDC project last week and realized that Ajax was in a good position to assist.

Ajax manufactures parts for HVACR (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration), healthcare, transportation, agriculture, and other critical industries. The company is classified as an essential service provider by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and remains open.

The board member, through a mutual friend, facilitated introductions Sunday morning.  Dr. Richardson explained his idea to the Ajax team and sent a drawing for examination. Kent Djubek, Ajax president, set the wheels in motion that day.

Into Production

By Sunday afternoon, Kent had enlisted the services of Talon Ganz, engineer and lead programmer at Ajax, to apply his expertise in SolidWorks® CAD/CAM applications. Talon quickly prepared the files needed to operate Ajax’s computerized fabrication machinery.

Talon and Kent recommended several design improvements that would lower costs and speed production. Rather than machining parts from billet aluminum, which would have been slow and expensive, the Ajax team decided to laser-cut the parts from stainless steel, a durable material that is widely available. The Ajax team also suggested the elimination of through-bolts by using the Ajax auto tapper.

The plan worked out. The stainless blanks were cut on one of the Ajax Salvagnini L3 fiber optic lasers, then deburred and formed on a press brake. By Monday afternoon, the team had ten units for Cara to examine. She then contacted Kent with a few more improvements, and by late morning on Wednesday, just three days after the drawings were delivered, Cara picked up 25 assembled enclosures that she rushed back to the BMDC for final assembly. “We had super-fast sheet metal work,” she said.

Ajax provided all programming and consulting services, materials, and labor for this project at no cost to the BMDC. The company keeps stainless steel on hand, so the team did not have to wait for materials.

“What was most gratifying to me was the enthusiasm our colleagues had for this project,” Kent said. “We prioritized this work because we knew the need was extreme. Community service has an empowering effect on people.”

About The University of Minnesota Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center

The BMDC, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is missioned to train the next generation of medical device innovators, to accelerate medical device development, to support teaching programs, to interface with the medical industry, and to help improve health care worldwide.

The BMDC is the namesake of electrical engineer and mathematician Earl E. Bakken, a founder of Medtronic, one of the world’s largest medical device companies.  Mr. Bakken developed the first external, battery-operated, transistorized, wearable artificial pacemaker in 1957. Visit the BDMC http://www.mdc.umn.edu.

About Ajax Metal Forming Solutions

Ajax Metal Forming Solutions is an ISO 9001:2015 metal forming solutions provider serving industrial and commercial manufacturers.  The company’s diverse ownership group includes 3rd generation family members, key company leaders, and Heartland Equity Partners, a mission-based private equity company.

Ajax is celebrating its 75th year in 2020.  The company employs about 65 colleagues at the company’s Minneapolis campus. Visit Ajax at www.ajaxmfs.com.

The Components Produced By Ajax – This is a SolidWorks® model of the 4-part Coventor enclosure produced by Ajax Metal Forming Solutions of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Ajax recommended several design improvements that made the Coventor faster and easier to manufacture and assemble.

The Coventor Prototypes – Ajax delivered 25 assembled Coventor enclosures to the University of Minnesota Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The BMDC set up an emergency manufacturing facility to complete the Coventor assemblies.

Safety Week At Ajax

Safety Week At Ajax

The Ajax Safety Leadership Team is on task this week to renew Ajax’s MNSHARP Worksite status for 2020. Ajax is one of only 37 MNSHARP Worksites.

The Ajax Safety Leadership Team works directly with MNSHARP auditors to develop and implement the company’s written safety program. Key elements of this program include management leadership and employee involvement, allocation of resources to address safety issues, systems that identify and control workplace hazards, and a plan for employee safety training and education.


The Minnesota Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (MNSHARP) recognizes companies whose managers and employees work together to develop safety and health programs. MNSHARP seeks to go beyond basic compliance with all applicable OSHA standards towards immediate and long-term prevention of job-related injuries and illnesses.

U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), encourages employers to operate exemplary safety and health management systems by offering participation in recognition and exemption programs. MNSHARP is Minnesota’s version of that program.

Thanks Team!


Celebrating 75 years!

Celebrating 75 years!

Please join with all our Ajax colleagues, friends and family members in celebrating our 75th anniversary in 2020!

Ajax At AHR Orlando

Ajax At AHR Orlando

Visit Ajax Sales Engineer Jayson Marcott and Vice President of Sales Don Wellman at the AHR Expo on Orlando, Florida on January 3, 4 & 5, 2020.

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