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Meridian’s Innovation in Fight Against Pandemic

As more North Carolina businesses begin reopening, they face new challenges with how to keep staff and customers safe from the ongoing coronavirus threat.

With that in mind, Aberdeen-based manufacturer Meridian recently launched a freestanding thermal scanning device that uses facial recognition and temperature check software to control building entry access.  It also incorporates additional features such as alarm technologies.

The response from the healthcare community, school systems, large chain retailers and other commercial interests was immediate.  Pinehurst Surgical Clinic was one of the first locations where the device was deployed.

“We have been completely inundated with interest,” said Melissa Tally, Merdian’s marketing coordinator. “We are definitely seeing demand from every single vertical.”

From its 13-acre headquarters near downtown Aberdeen, Meridian designs, engineers, fabricates, assembles, deploys and supports a variety of self-service kiosks. Its roster of clients includes Walmart, Mercedes-Benz and Food Lion, among others.

Founder and CEO Chris Gilder said the company has received over 1,700 orders for the device, called the Meridian Personnel Management (PMK) Solution. The total number of individual units pre-ordered has exceeded 8,000 and continues to grow.

“The response has been phenomenal,” Gilder said.

To manage interest, Meridian has begun hosting twice weekly live webinars to provide an overview of the PMK device for interested buyers.

“We are building them as fast as we can and deploying them as fast as we can,” Gilder said.

Things were much bleaker earlier this spring when Meridian had to put many of its projects on hold because of shipping delays and the economic downturn as a result of coronavirus pandemic.

Like many others, Gilder said he had to lay off employees, and the company looked at taking percentage cuts from salaried staff pay as well.

“We were brainstorming solutions and what we could do to help. We talked to HP (Hewlett-Packard) who is our biggest partner, and we came up with the thermal scan. Now we are full steam ahead.”

In fact, rather than reducing its workforce, Meridian brought furloughed employees back on and are hiring for several new positions.

“We are trying to keep up with the volume,” Gilder said, noting they’ve been challenged with logistics because of the restricted supply chain from other global partners. “What is normally here in two to three days is taking two to three weeks to arrive.”

However, with production ramping up substantially, some of those issues are now starting to smooth out.

“We hope to be up to 5,000 units a day in production in the next few weeks. We have had unprecedented interest and orders,” Gilder said. “Those who have ordered one or two have come back and want more.”

Meridian is also concurrently developing a cart-sanitizing device that is in the research and development phase.

“First and foremost we want to help. We have a team dedicated to COVID solutions,” Gilder said. “We don’t anticipate high profit margins. What we wanted was to create something so we could bring our employees back to work and continue to hire and grow. We want to be a large employer in this area: that is something very important to us.”

(Original story by Laura Douglass, The Pilot)

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