Clarus – Glass Half Full
Clarus creates innovate glass products for workspaces, but with the advent of COVID-19 their talents are finding applications in unforeseen places.
Clarus is an industry leader in creating innovative glass products for marketplaces such as corporate offices, healthcare facilities, and higher education centres. They have made a name for themselves pushing the boundaries of design.
We’re focused on innovation and design. We also service the industry very well because we manufacture our own products which is a competitive advantage for a company like ours,” explains Marc Mansell, Clarus’ CEO. “We manufacture the products we design and develop allowing us to service customers directly and quickly. This is especially useful in the industry of building out workspaces. The ability to have our products delivered on time at high quality makes us a trusted partner in the industry to those who want to bring those workplaces to life.”
Of course, if you are reading this there is a good chance you have not been to your workplace for a while. Barring the most essential key workers, most of us are either furloughed or working from home.
“Right now the global pandemic is high on our list of challenges,” Mansell says. “I was just speaking with my site manager in Belgium over Zoom this morning and we had a conversation about our goals for the year. When we were looking at these goals late last year nobody saw the effects of a significant economic downturn and global pandemic where workspaces are being closed, people are working from home, even borders are being closed.”
Shielding the Workforce
Clarus’ work, however, is more crucial than ever. “Right now like many companies we are considered an essential business in how we support healthcare and government agencies, operating in the face of really big challenges,” Mansell explains.
From the very beginning, Clarus was at the vanguard ensuring workspaces and healthcare environments were clean and safe. “Early on we started to see the marketplace considering how to keep workspaces and healthcare clinics as clean and sanitised as possible,” Mansell recalls. “Glass is a good material candidate for surfaces you need to clean and disinfect because it’s non-porous. It is very simple to use bleach or whatever cleaner you want, and it will look just as beautiful and last just as long, unlike other materials. Knowing glass had really good qualities we started looking for applications. We got a call from an administrator at VA Medical Centres in Seattle who were setting up a COVID clinic. They reached out to us for products for their COVID clinic directly because we are known for glass products and have supported the healthcare industry for a long time now. In a matter of days, we were able to get them what they needed.”
However, while Clarus was working hard to ensure frontline healthcare workers were safe, the company also had to ensure the safety of its own staff. “In early April we decided it was in the best interests of employees to begin doing temperature screening as people entered our production facility,” Mansell says. “The Catch 22 situation was that in order to be able to take an employee’s temperature with the handheld infrared thermometers you need to get close enough to take their temperature, breaking distancing guidelines.”
Fortunately, Clarus was equipped with the resources and ingenuity to tackle this problem head-on. “Our operations team took one of our vertical go! Mobile products, a glass board on wheels. Usually, it has a white surface you write on, but on this design they used clear glass and cut a hole in it to reach through and take someone’s temperature,” Mansell explains. It was a discovery that would open the door to a whole new product line for Clarus.
“Frankly, when we saw the video of the process, we realised many companies will be moving to this temperature screening process and might benefit from that. So we turned to our design folks and gave them the challenge of coming up with a product inspired by the needs of our production facility,” Mansell tells us. “We went from idea to design to saleable product in seven days. It is called be! Clear, a vertical clear glass shield for taking employee temperatures with a vertical slot where you hold the thermometer, taking the temperature of the employee depending on their height. That product has evolved into a series of other products we are calling be! Shields because as people prepare to come back to work, they are asking for products like the glass shield to create barriers. It’s an example of how innovation can come from anywhere.”
While the challenges COVID-19 brings with it are new, Mansell believes that the solutions are ones we have always had.
“The challenges we face today with the virus and the efforts to bring back the workforce are just creating a different perspective on collaboration,” he says. “We want to help people collaborate safely now, sometimes in creating spaces for people that want to create a bit of a shield between each other. We still intend to be a company that supports people working together, collaborating and creating great ideas together.”
Indeed, when this year began Clarus had big plans for its own expansion, and while they might be temporarily on hold in some cases, they have not changed.
“We are viewed as an industry leader and we aspire to extend that into Europe. Europe continues to be a major target market for us where we would like to fuel our growth,” Mansell says. “We want to expand our sales capabilities in Europe and the Middle East. We opened our factory in Belgium last Fall and we have been able to bring more and more products to that which can be manufactured locally. We intend to continue to expand our geographic reach, driving an innovative and desirable product line and be a trusted partner in the industries we service.”
While COVID-19 will certainly change things, possibly on a large scale, Mansell is optimistic. “I continue to remind people that in the life cycle of a company this is just a bump in the road,” he says. “It feels big but in the long-term scheme of things I have got a lot of trust in science and countries and industries and medicine to get past this. There might be a new normal but a bright normal on the other side of this.”