The  lack  of  personal  protection  equipment  (PPE)  is  one  of  the  biggest  challenges  facing doctors, nurses, and first responders in the fight against COVID-19. When you combine the true  American  spirit  of  compassion  with  the  creativity  and  innovation  of  American manufacturing, amazing things happen.

Thanks to the efforts of manufacturing companies from coast to coast and all around the world, health professionals and first responders are getting the PPEs they need to help  save lives, including their own. The following stories of three such companies – in Florida, Wisconsin and California – make me proud to support these manufacturers be heroes.

Making Foam Strips to Save Lives

Many companies in the U.S. manufacture and assemble various types of protective face masks, and right now they’re making them as fast as they can. The problem is the foam pads used to cushion the front of the mask are in short supply. In fact, one of the biggest shortages is the foam strips used to make disposable “shield” masks, that are worn once and then discarded.

Based in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, Milcut, Inc., which fabricates foam, rubber, plastic and high-temperature materials, is doing all it can to help meet the demand. At the urgent request  of  customers,  Milcut  began  making  foam  strips  for  the  plastic  splash  shield  that goes  on  protective  face  masks.  These  strips  are  not  one  of  their  standard  products.  Yet, within three days of receiving the first order, they shipped 15,000 of them.

Milcut then connected with Operation MaskForce, a local effort linked to colleges, hospitals and businesses, and began producing filters for canister masks, a more sophisticated type of protective mask used in hospitals. “The foam strip and canister filter are similar to products we already make, but we had to make a few adjustments before starting production,” says Curt Huettner, Director of Sales for Milcut. “The foam strip is a fairly simple rectangular strip with an adhesive backing to adhere to the plastic face shield and is easy to produce. Fortunately, we had plenty of foam on hand.”

“For the filter, it took a while to find a media type that met three essential criteria. It had to be breathable, it had to filter out the correct size particulate (N95 mask goal), and we needed a source that could provide high volume right away. That took us about four weeks to get going, but we are now suppling them to a local company that makes canister masks.”

Production for the filters started at around 1,000 per day, a drop in the bucket based on demand.  But  Huettner  expects  Milcut  to  soon  turn  out  30,000  per  day.  Meanwhile,  the company is currently shipping around 50,000 foam strips a day to customers throughout the U.S., with total orders of more than 900,000.

“We’re  proud  to  be  making  to  front-line  components  to  help  prevent  the  spread  of COVID-19,”  says  Huettner.  “This  crisis  also  highlights  the  importance  of  having  strong supply  chains,  because  we’re  all  in  this  together.  As  long  as  we  can  get  the  supplies  we need, we can mass produce the parts. We send them to our fellow manufacturers so they can make the PPEs that end up on the front lines, where they are desperately needed.”

An Act of Kindness for the Frontlines

Coming together to make a difference is not something that is foreign to Bazz Houston International (BHI). When CEO Javier Castro learned of the serious shortage of protective

face masks in local hospitals, he didn’t hesitate. Quickly teaming up with two other Orange County, CA-based companies, he launched an immediate effort to design and manufacture face shields for doctors and nursing staff at local emergency rooms. The fact that BHI, a metal forming manufacturer, had never made such a product did not slow Castro down.

With no experience working with plastics, Castro and his engineers began experimenting with the design. Eight prototypes later, they finally hit on the right one. Setting a goal of 15,000 face shields, BHI began sourcing the necessary materials, and Castro put out a call for  volunteers  to  help  assemble  them.  After  clocking  out  of  their  regular  shifts,  many employees worked late into the evening on their own time, assembling 330 face shields on the first day. Castro hoped to make at least 1,000 face shield components per day. BHI’s dedicated employees ended up assembling 15,000 units in only five days.

BHI began donating the face shields to local hospitals and emergency responders at no cost, and word of mouth quickly spread. When Sony™ learned of the donations, they began covering the cost of shipping the face shields to other states around the country.

“This was a group effort,” says Castro. “We partnered with our friends and fellow business owners from Automotive Entertainment and Defined Concepts. A few local companies volunteered to purchase some of the raw materials which enabled us to make an additional 3,000 shields beyond our goal.”

“For me, the best part was seeing the passion and commitment our employees showed to each other and the frontline health professionals as they lived our company motto: We Are Strong Together. It feels good knowing that our small business can give back to people who risk their own lives for us and those we love.”

Making It Safe to Study the Virus

While  many  manufacturers  are  providing  the  PPEs  and  other  materials  doctors,  nurses and first responders need to contain the COVID virus, others are providing safe places for researchers to study the virus. Germfree, a global manufacturer of mobile laboratories, has been providing remote on-site response capabilities for decades. This experience played a key  role  in  the  Florida-based  company’s  ability  to  respond  quickly  to  the  COVID-19 pandemic.

As early as mid-March, Germfree began receiving calls from around the globe for biological containment laboratories to combat the fast-spreading virus. As regional epidemics grew into a global pandemic, the need for bio-containment space skyrocketed. In response, Germfree significantly expanded their factory capacity while offering expertise to industry partners also trying to fulfill the unmet need.

“The pandemic has dramatically shifted the landscape in which we operate, and we believe it is our responsibility to apply our full resources to assist with the pandemic at this time,” says Kevin Kyle, President of Germfree. “We’re currently focusing on providing what those serving in the trenches need to fight this terrible disease."

Germfree built, delivered, and installed the mobile bio-containment lab in Singapore that was the first in the region to isolate COVID-19. In addition to ramping up deployment of mobile cleanroom containment units, the company is also developing new techniques for remote monitoring of critical controls.

Recently,  Germfree  delivered  a  53-foot  containment  cleanroom  trailer  to  a  major  U.S. pharmaceutical company working on a COVID-19 vaccine. This was the first of many more mobile labs the company will deliver to scientists and organizations working on virus and antibody testing, vaccine development, research, and deployment solutions.

Reinforcing the belief that “we’re all in this together,” some of Germfree’s most important suppliers have dedicated their resources to producing the materials needed to manufacture the containment labs. Kentucky Trailer, a key provider of specialty mobile platforms, has made Germfree their top priority. Other suppliers, including Northern Air Systems, a producer of specialty cooling units for the mobile laboratories, are putting mechanisms in place to secure the supply chain for Germfree during the pandemic.

“Thanks  to  our  suppliers  and  the  hard  work  of  our  employees,  Germfree  was  able  to quickly  meet  the  need  for  a  biocontainment  unit  specifically  designed  for  COVID-19 vaccine  development,”  says  Keith  Landy,  CEO  of  Germfree.  “Yet,  we  believe  it  is  not enough  just  to  have  sufficient  global  lab  capacity  for  this  pandemic.  The  labs  we’re designing to combat the coronavirus can be easily tailored to meet needs that have yet to be identified so we’ll be better prepared for the next crisis.”

Compassion Meets “Can Do”

Stories of manufacturers making a difference in the battle against COVID-19 are growing by leaps and bounds. I highlighted Milcut, BHI and Germfree because they represent more than just the ingenuity and “can do” attitude of manufacturers. These companies each part of the family of manufacturers powered by Global Shop Solutions also demonstrate a real compassion and caring for their neighbors and for people all over the globe who are being affected by the pandemic. Their efforts make it clear that we are indeed all in this together – today and in the future.

About Global Shop Solutions

We  simplify  your  manufacturing.™  Global  Shop  Solutions  ERP  software  provides  the applications needed to deliver a quality part on time, every time from quote to cash and everything  in  between  including  shop  management,  scheduling,  inventory,  accounting, quality   control,   CRM   and   25   more.   Available   in   the   cloud   or   on   premise,   our manufacturing  customers  benefit  from  real-time  inventory  accuracy,  improved  on-time delivery,  lower  administrative  costs,  increased  sales  and  improved  customer  service. Headquarters in The Woodlands, Texas includes a state-of-the-art R&D facility and Global Shop   Solutions   training   center.   Through   its   offices   in   the   U.S.,   Mexico,   Indonesia, Singapore,  Australia,  New  Zealand  and  the  United  Kingdom,  the  company  supports thousands of manufacturing facilities in over 25 countries and nearly 30 industries.