Interview with J Kirby Best

J Kirby Best
J Kirby Best
Chief Executive

Every Country Should Have Ability to Manufacture a Minimum Supply of PPE for their Needs
US-based OnPoint, an on-demand apparel manufacturer specializing in womenswear, in April decided to witch its production lines over to 90 per cent PPE. Chief executive J Kirby Best shares more.

OnPoint Manufacturing switched over to making PPE. Tell us more about the switch. What was the thought process that went into it? What were the changes at your manufacturing unit that you had to carry out? Were the people already equipped to handle such a change? Or were they trained up?

Several of our associates and colleagues had suggested that we make masks and we realised that we had the ability to help the growing shortage across the country.

We decided late on a Thursday to convert the plant. By Friday, two of our team members designed and patterned the mask and had it ready that day. On Saturday we redesigned the company to handle the mask, and by Sunday we were in full production.

We have one of the most automated plants in the world, so being able to pivot and be in production in a matter of hours is the type of challenge that the plant is built for. We are honoured to do our part to assist the front-line workers who risk their lives to fight covid-19.

OnPoint Manufacturing has been making gowns and masks for a month. How many units of each have been produced so far? Given the lockdown bottlenecks, how are you distributing? How many people are working on these?

We have ramped up to manufacture 4,500 masks a day and as our expertise grows, we expect to hit 6,000. All of our delivery supply chains have been fully functional, so we have not experienced any delivery issues. We have about 50 people in the company and nearly all of them are involved in one way or another.

As a company, how do you see things (i.e. markets / economies) shaping up in the next six months? What would your advice be to small garment manufacturers who have no clue how to switch over to making PPE?

Our company sees a need for PPE for the foreseeable future. With better, more widespread testing, promising treatments, and a vaccine we will be much better equipped to battle covid-19.

If you are a small garment manufacturer that has not been involved with PPE, I would first assess your ability to compete today, and then plan for a different level of competition when global markets open and we see an influx of PPE from other countries. I would recommend selecting one or two products that you can specialize in and become competitive with those.

Could you give us a roadmap on how to switch manufacturing, the software that has helped you, the rejig in manufacturing that was required to source raw material etc, the costs involved?

I am afraid there was no roadmap to follow. We made the decision to make the change, which was our starting point. We then decided where we wanted to be in terms of production, which was our end point. Keep in mind we see this as a temporary switch; so, we always have to be able to go back. Once the two points were established, we sat down with each group to figure out what had to happen to make the changes. It's important to remember that we have some very sophisticated  sewers in the group, so the change took little or no time to train our production team. It was also fortunate that we had material on hand that we were told by our supplier was very good for the application. In the end, we were armed with a great team, the right tools, and the right mindset to jump into action and ramp up production.

Anything else you might want to add?

I would add that this pandemic has taught us how important burst capacity and in-market manufacturing is to the supply chain. Every country should have the ability to manufacture a minimum supply of PPE for their needs. I would also add that governments should support this initiative.
This interview was first published in the June 2020 edition of the print magazine.
Published on: 03/07/2020

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of

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