Unprecedented challenges call for unprecedented solutions.
This pandemic has reshaped the daily lives of all, from the ways we work, communicate, and shop, to taking care of those around us and re-prioritizing our values in life.
Many manufacturers have also faced similar shifts in their daily operations:
Leaving only essential production lines open, reducing or increasing inventories, rescheduling worker hours, and most importantly, repurposing existing skills and resources where possible to help fight this pandemic.
While shifting operations has not been a possible option for all, we want to share how some companies have been able to reconfigure their operations to help find solutions for this global challenge.
1. New Balance
At two New Balance factories, shoe production came to a halt in mid-March. But 130 factory workers stayed behind to begin production on face masks full-time. New Balance quickly partnered with scientists from MIT to design a mask prototype, which used the same no-sew fabric and the curly, elastic lace straps from their classic line of shoes. As of early April, their goal was to make up to 100,000 units weekly at both their Maine and Massachusetts locations. Their R&D team has also been actively working on gowns, foot coverings, and various other essentials.
2. Richemont Group
Richemont has made available its Italian leather-goods production capabilities, notably those of its Maison Serapian Milano, as well as its network of partners, to produce protective masks. In addition, about 1 million masks are expected to be donated to the most affected regions in Italy, especially to the medical staff and those that are directly combating the virus.
Skyrora, a Scottish Rocket startup, has turned its UK manufacturing plant into producing hand sanitizers, using the WHO guidelines and requirements. Their current goal is to manufacture sanitizers at a rate of over 10,000 250 ml bottles per week. They are repurposing ethanol used in early rocket fuels as the fundamental disinfectant ingredient. In addition to sanitizers, Skyrora is now in talks with the Scottish Government to see how they can prototype and mass-produce 3D-printed protective face masks.
Stratasys has made available their design file for 3D printing Face Shields. They are currently in the evaluation phase for their Face Mask and Medical Component files as well. Since there are two separate components to a face shield, the visor and the shield, plants that are unable to produce both are given the option to send their parts for repackaging at Stratasys.
Formlabs is another firm helping out with their 3D printing technology. They have spearheaded the medical validation of test kit swabs, ventilator splitters, face shields, and a number of other medical equipments.
Since clinical testing, they have been scaling production on test kit nasal swabs with hospital partners and Formlabs’ facilities. They have also made their face shield design available for local health organizations that see clinical fit. For the rest of their medical equipment, Formlabs is currently under active validation and testing, and are currently waiting to enter their second phase of mass printing parts using internal printers and their Formlabs support networks.
Fanatics has partnered with the MLB, NBA, and WNBA to repurpose jersey uniform fabrics into gowns and masks. Specifically in their partnership with the MLB, they have split the costs of labor and materials––about $3 million––and have been producing around 15,000 pieces a day. The first round of protective gear has already been distributed to health-care workers in Pennsylvania and the program will be expanded to New York and New Jersey. They are aiming to make one million items a day currently.
Nautique Boats began sewing face masks for first responders when Orlando Health needed to convert their medical fabric into masks. Since then, Nautique has repurposed its upholstery department and have purchased additional sewing machines. Currently, Nautique workers are producing around 1,000 masks.
The UK Government asked the VentilatorChallengeUK consortium, which BAE is a member of, to begin the rapid production of ventilator systems. Their role in the VentilatorChallengeUK has been ramping up the production of a proven ventilator design, supplied by a leading UK medical company. They are providing integrated, tested sub-systems and components, saving significant time during the final assembly stage of ventilators. In addition to their ventilator efforts, they have also sourced tens of thousands of additional face shields throughout their supply chain to distribute to the NHS on their behalf. They are scheduled to deliver more than 120,000 face shields this month.
MasksOn is a non-profit providing emergency face Mask Kits for free to clinicians who do not have access to FDA approved PPE. They have been purchasing off-the-shelf full-face snorkel masks and attaching hospital-supplied bacterial and viral filter adapters. These masks are reusable and sanitizable. So far, they have raised $2 Million in funding, and are producing at the rate of over 1,000 masks a day.
Protolabs is currently helping its customers source critical components used for protecting health care workers, rapid testing kits, ventilators, and many other creative solutions to help treat and slow the spread of the virus. To quickly get the plastic and the metal parts for medical use, they have expedited all COVID-19 shipping orders at no additional charge through April 30.
11. Pernod Ricard SA
The North American Division of Pernod Ricard SA, the French spirits empire behind Absolut vodka and Jameson Irish Whiskey, has retooled their distilleries to create hand sanitizers. Just a couple days from signing off the project, their manufacturing plant in Smith, Arkansas had already produced a total of 1,000 gallons of hand sanitizers. They are planning to expand their production capabilities to their other distilleries in Kentucky, Texas, and West Virginia. In addition, the company’s France Division has also donated 70,000 liters of raw alcohol to a cleansing gel manufacturer in France.
If you believe that you can be of help to any of these initiatives, please reach out to them directly. To get the most up-to-date information on each of these companies’ works, please visit their website.