The best laid plans sometimes get sucker-punched. At the beginning of 2020, many manufacturers were chugging along at peak performance. Then COVID-19 gummed up the works. Learn how three contract converters have pivoted to high performance.
In early March of 2020, COVID-19 turned the world — and the manufacturing sector — on its head. Manufacturers were faced with the threat of losing customers and potentially their workforce. At the same time, there was a surge in demand for PPE.
The Department of Health and Human Services initially reported that healthcare workers would need 3.5 billion face masks if the coronavirus outbreak in the United States were to hit pandemic proportions, which it did.
Compounding the problem was the fact that China, which had previously produced approximately half of the world’s face masks, had stopped exports due to COVID-19s impact on their own country.
The converting industry had all the demand it could handle, but would manufacturers be flexible enough to provide the required supply? Three contract converters answered the question with a resounding yes.
Strouse ups capacity to 2.5 million masks and 250,000 face shields per week
Strouse Corporation, a contract converter that takes flexible materials and changes them from a roll form to a discrete part, lived up to their “more than tape” motto when the pandemic took hold.
To meet the critical need for surgical masks and face guards, Strouse rose to the occasion by putting their experience with medical device manufacturing to work.
They first tapped their supply chain to find the materials necessary for N95 and N95 PPE. Next, they worked with Delta ModTech to automate the assembly process. Their Crusader® machine was configured to allow for assembly in only one pass, dramatically reducing the need for manual assembly.
Strouse was able to refine the process to the point where they can produce 2.5 million masks and 100,000 face shields per week — all while continuing to service their other customers.
Read the full Strouse case study here.
Plitek produces 280,000 visors per day
Plitek, a narrow web converter based in Illinois, faced a similar challenge. With experience in die cutting services for the medical industry, they were accustomed to meeting the high quality requirements of PPE.
But with COVID-19, the need for speed was just as important. Plitek believes “no task is insurmountable,” so they immediately developed a prototype using their laser and digital die cutting capabilities.
After ironing out supply chain issues much like Strouse, the big hurdle was moving from prototype to high-volume production. Using Delta ModTech’s Crusader, Plitek was able to transition from 3,500 prototype visors per day to 280,000 per day, and meet the needs of three big customers.
Read the full Plitek case study here.
Boyd Technologies Creates Local Supply Chains for Raw Materials
After the FDA authorized emergency use of personal respiratory protective devices in March, Boyd Technologies identified and produced proof of principle products that used readily available raw materials from local supply chains.
The shift was essential, as traditional supply chains were backed up through 2021. The shutdown of many raw material plants in China, in conjunction with the embargo of raw material and finished products from suppliers based in Asia and Europe, had created severe PPE shortages worldwide. Body Technologies wanted to ensure a domestic supply chain was established.
Boyd Technologies engineering team also made tooling so that their Delta Crusader could produce proof-of-principles products, working in conjunction with the Manufacturing Emergency Response Team (MERT).
Having successfully produced proof of principle products, Boyd engaged with state and commercial partners to provide long-term solutions to the PPE shortage crisis. Boyd was one of the companies awarded grant money by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts through MERT to purchase dedicated mask production lines.
The company is in the process of speccing and installing equipment that will produce 50 million masks/year, with commercial product expected in Q4.
Making the transition requires rush upgrades and process support
The experience and expertise of both these contract converters allowed them to make a successful pivot. But having flexible equipment and a support team to back it is also a critical part of the equation.
Delta ModTech has been extremely busy performing rush upgrades and process supports for a variety of clients to meet the intense demands of COVID-19. Remote service, and even installations, have been invaluable.
“Our ability to log into a customer machine remotely to help them work through a new process, like manufacturing a face shield, is essential when there are visitation and travel restrictions,” said Marketing Manager David Grenwis of Delta ModTech. “We have serious horsepower when it comes to service personnel,” he said.
The road to recovery will be a long one with COVID-19, and the manufacturing world will certainly be called on to provide protection and potentially much more. Companies like Plitek and Strouse are ready to meet the challenge, and we’re here to ensure they will succeed.