Godwin Mfg.: ‘We wanted to be the good guys.’

Without a supply of chassis, work slows, but owner increases pay

By Lisa Farmer

Pat Godwin Sr. is deploying a strategy he used when the recession hit in 2008. He calls it improvising.

“I’ve always been good at improvising,” he said.

Godwin is the owner and founder of Godwin Mfg. in Dunn. His company makes dump bodies. He’s amassed other dump body plants in Kentucky, Ohio and Utah, forming The Godwin Group.

Since the current pandemic hit, truck plants such as Peterbilt and other original equipment manufacturers that make the chassis that Godwin puts his dump bodies and rollbacks on, stopped manufacturing. Seeing the incoming slowdown, workers hours were cut to 36 a week more than a month ago. Still, Godwin saw, with the truck plants shut down, what was next.

“We realized we were going to run out of work,” he said. “We were not prepared for this type of slowdown.”

Without work, there would be layoffs.

Pat Godwin, Sr. stands in front of chassis at his Godwin Mfg. plant in Dunn. The chassis are waiting on Godwin dump bodies. He said since plants like Peterbilt and Ford shut down, he’s not getting chassis. At first work hours were cut to 36, but when it became clear there was going to be a drought, and layoffs were imminent, Godwin changed course. He slowed production, upped pay to 40 hours, although there will likely not be 40 hours of work, and set aside time for plant maintenance, improvements and other projects. He did something similar during the 2008 recession and came out more successful than ever.

He said his employees had been with him a long time and he didn’t want to let them down. He imagined them not having insurance, not paying their child support and possibly not being able to rehire them once trucks and orders started coming back.

“We wanted to help them. We wanted to be the good guys,” he said. “We didn’t want anybody out looking jobs. We’d stand the risk of losing them.”

So, Godwin did the opposite of what most people would do, workers would be paid at 40 hours a week and production slowed to have a constant work schedule.

In an announcement his daughter, Phyllis Godwin, company vice president, make Monday, workers were told they would perform their regular duties Monday through Wednesday and on Thursday they would tend to plant maintenance, special projects and other improvements. Even though they would not work 40 hours a week, they would get paid for it.

This plant improvement initiative Godwin used in 2008 when the recession hit. Orders were down and he used that time to develop more assembly-efficient practices. Although Godwin is an industrialist, he is also an inventor (he calls it improvising). Over the years he has developed methods to build his dump bodies quicker than his competition – think automated assembly line. That’s the reason he purchased failing companies in Ohio and Utah, Williamsen and Galion, respectively, and turned them around using his efficient assembly techniques.

However, in 2008, Godwin had trucks. This time his supply is running out.

Before this pandemic hit that turned this country on its economic head, Godwin Mfg. was in great shape, the best it’s been, he said.

Making these unconventional changes, the management team hopes to retain employees and still fill customer orders.

“Godwin is still very strong in the market, we had to make adjustments, but expect to be running full steam in a few months,” Phyllis Godwin said.

Prior to this slowdown, production was running so fast, workers couldn’t get to plant modifications Godwin envisioned. Now they will have time. Plus, work is underway on construction of a new large building that would be an addition to his snowplow line, Good Roads. Those are also manufactured at the Dunn facility.

Godwin’s daughter said the workers have appreciated the gesture. She said she had a thank you card in her hand signed by many employees before Monday was over.

For the self-made millionaire from Sampson County who jumped out of a window in his sixth-grade classroom to tend sweet potatoes and never return to school, he’s hoping this will work.

The sign in his office reads, “I am not smart enough to know that I can’t do it.” Godwin is using this technique now and as for his employees, they hope it works.

Godwin remains optimistic.

“Godwin is in a good financial position to weather this storm if it doesn’t last too long,” he said.