After most individuals on campus left Yale due to COVID-19, some Facilities staff remained, keeping HVAC systems humming, lights on, and plumbing running. Yale’s mechanics, plumbers, and electricians need supplies, and those come from the Stockroom Team. Both stockrooms continue to operate during the shutdown, thanks to the flexible and dedicated staff.
In addition to maintaining a large inventory of items like thermostats, big turbines, plumbing valves, and electrical light ballasts, the two stockrooms now carry personal protective equipment (PPEs), and lots of hand sanitizer. Yale mechanics, plumbers, locksmiths, carpenters, and masons often start their day from the Medical or Central stockroom.
The stockrooms are managed by Vincent Holcomb, Facilities Materials and Fleet Manager. Vincent talked to us recently about what it’s been like to manage remotely, his incredible team, and how procuring some materials has become extremely challenging in the wake of the pandemic.
What does your team do regularly?
I have a staff of five men working at two stockrooms, one at the Medical School and the other at 344 Winchester Avenue. We manage millions of dollars’ worth of equipment that, in a nutshell, is needed to support all of Yale Facilities and Utilities staff, who in turn maintain all the buildings on campus. While the team is pulling orders for staff, deliveries are coming in or facilities vehicles need attention. At times, it can be dizzyingly busy, and that’s when we are fully staffed.
How is it going with the campus currently shutdown because of the pandemic?
We still have both areas open, but only one person at each—normally, there are three. Now they are doing all that I mentioned, but alone, social distancing, and wearing masks and gloves. There is a lot of running (literally) back and forth between the front desk and the loading dock. These guys have been amazing, flexible, steadfast, and dedicated. I can’t say enough about them; they are a super conscientious group. They all understand these are unprecedented circumstances but didn’t flinch at helping to keep operations going!
Other changes due to COVID-19?
We now have all kinds of materials coming in to protect the Yale community such as hand sanitizer, hand wipes, face masks, rubber nitrile gloves, bleach, plastic spray bottles, coveralls, and Tyvek suits. Normally, we don’t deal with this stuff or stock it. We have been working with Yale Procurement to source these materials, which are now harder to come by and may require working with multiple vendors. These items will be disseminated via the individual departments to faculty and staff as the campus starts to ramp back up. A new protocol system is being instituted, so managers can hand out items in a fair and equitable manner. We are getting in so much we’ve had to find secondary space to house these materials.
What was the hardest thing for you and team during this time?
Communications has been the most challenging. I’m primarily working from home, so daily coordination is via email, text, and phone. Usually, I’m onsite. Also, having to manually update some of the programs has been a bit intensive as far as tracking and ordering. It has been challenging finding alternate solutions in the supply chain to get all that we need because of shortages. It’s been tough finding substitutes that are EPA compliant and working with new vendors who are not used to working with Yale and not in our online system.
What positives do you see coming out of this situation?
I see a little bit more unity in this time of trouble. There is a new sense of camaraderie and togetherness. We are coming through for each other, even though we don’t see each other in person. I also see people really appreciating this place, each other, and having a real sense of purpose. I’m ready to go back to the campus to see my team and colleagues.
What changes for the stockroom operations will be here to stay?
To some degree, the way my team works together, whether it’s the social distancing or more staff rotations. We are installing plexiglass at the reception front desk. I even see myself having to continue to work remotely part of the time. Also, maybe instituting programs like curbside pickup or other ways to cut down on direct person-to-person contact. So, less walk-up service and a more efficient ordering system, when possible. You don’t always plan when something breaks, that’s the catch.
What is your best pandemic advice?
Stay calm, and do the best you can with the information at hand. Things are constantly changing because of this pandemic, but together we will get through it.
What is the first thing you will do once we can “move freely about?”
I really want to go out to dinner, then go to the gym, and then get a haircut!
Big thanks to the entire Facilities Warehouse Crew:
- Daryl Johnson, Materials Assistant
- Larry P. Mann, Materials Assistant
- Larry D. Packer, Materials Assistant
- Charles T. Pilotti, Material Assistant
- Frank A. Ruggiero, Materials Assistant
Special thanks to:
- Mike Pizzella, Associate Director, Physical Plant Operations
- Garrett Ames, Procurement Buyer
- Anthony Koiser, Director Facilities Operations & Engineering