With the COVID-19 epidemic causing ripples across the global supply chain, companies are trying to come with grips with shortages in key inputs for their production. Hard hit is the manufacturing sector that produces vital medical supplies. These include Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves and medical robes.
Recent weeks have seen a surge in medical supplies and protective gear as numbers of those infected rose across the nation. The problem was further compounded with factories seeing either closures or quarantines coupled with international trade heavily restricted.
Hard hit include manufacturers heavily dependent on inputs from the Chinese market the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. The US needs an estimated 3.5 billion masks to cope with the outbreak this year. Manufacturers are now looking in country for solutions to address the current pinch in supplies.
Against this background the shortage crisis has caused textile companies to recalibrate their businesses to address the urgent need for face masks, gowns and gloves. Crafters too have taken up arms to fight the onslaught of the outbreak by setting up Facebook pages to create a community as well as provide DIY videos on how to produce PEPs such as the Crafters Against COVID-19 Seattle.
Other manufacturers have tweaked their production lines that once produced T-shirts and hoodies to produce protective masks. Though the masks are not medical grade they do get the job of helping reduce the risks of being infected.
Small Businesses Making PPE
Below are some businesses that are working towards addressing the shortfall of protective masks.
Gaslight Costume Shoppe
Costume designer shop Gaslight Costume Shoppe have started a new line of masks for medical professionals. Along with the University of Arizona Costume Department, they are making two types of masks. A surgical mask people can wear for everyday use and the N95 masks. As per the CDC an N95 mask filters out about 95 percent of airborne particles. Thus, making the best protection for medical staff working with patients.
So how did this come about, head costume designer, Renee Cloutier told Small Business Trends, “My daughter is a nurse in the ICU, she and I were talking about a month ago and I realized the shortage of masks for the hospital staff. So, I asked her if it would be helpful if I made a few masks for her.”
Cloutier goes on to say, “Of course she said that it would be great! Then I was talking about it with my co-workers and sewing friends, and they too said they could help. And it just grew exponentially. I have two daughters that work in the medical field, so my one daughter called the news, and since then, it has blown up. I am trying to fill the needs of anyone that asks.”
Since this is a philanthropic venture, Cloutier is asking help from seamstresses and donations of 100% cotton. The last request goes on like this, “Any, and I mean any, 1/4 inch elastic or corded elastic!”
This California based apparel company has shifted its sewing machines from making T-shirts to manufacturing face masks. The company is supplying cotton masks to hospitals and medical facilities.
Beverly Knits Inc.
Beverly Knits has started producing face masks for health care workers on the front lines. Together with small and medium size companies, they are retooling their production lines to meet the growing demand. They along with their consortium plan to produce 1.5 million masks produced domestically per week.
Band Shoppe which produces uniforms for the marching bands as well as formal concert apparel and accessories has heeded the call for protective masks. It has closed its showroom to help meet shortages of washable face masks.
This T-Shirt maker has started using its embroidery machines to start making masks and supplying healthcare workers. “The only thing slowing us down is the lack of materials. …We are trying to make as many masks as we can while we are slow for nursing homes and hospitals that need them,” said DigiStitch Embroidery.
Something Vintage rentals
Something Vintage rentals have collected donated money, fabric, to make masks for medical professionals and hospitals. This events and rental company not only supply the masks but also coordinates volunteers to deliver the masks to hospitals.
Hedley & Bennett
This Los Angeles manufacturer of handmade chef-quality aprons, has developed the Wake Up & Fight Mask. This washable, reusable cotton mask is being sold under the company’s ‘Buy 1, Give 1’ plan.
K&K Logo Designs
K&K Logo Designs is an on-screen printing and promotional products company. Following appeals made by the local nursery for masks for their medical personnel it decided to pitch in. Today they have around 20 people making cotton masks.