Manufacturing’s Resilience Amid the COVID-19 Climate

Posted by Clarion Safety Systems on 14th May 2020

Manufacturing: Stepping Up to Fight a Pandemic

Before World War II, manufacturers in the United States were making cars, appliances and children’s toys in what was then considered peacetime industries. Once the war broke out, President Roosevelt ordered these manufacturers to halt normal production and start producing essential goods for war. Conventional factories were converted into manufacturing plants to produce weapons and military equipment to support the fight. In a similar vein eight decades later, manufacturers of all types are stepping up, repurposing production lines to aid in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Read more about the industry’s quick shifts and critical solutions to fight COVID-19 – and how these challenging circumstances are showcasing the resiliency of today’s manufacturers.

Manufacturing in Support of Healthcare
While the effects of the COVID-19 situation have undoubtedly been felt across nearly every industry, analysts agree that the medical and emergency response sectors have been hit particularly hard. According to the Centers for Disease Control and  Prevention, 1.3 million people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus throughout the United States alone, with new cases continuing to arise, as of earlier this month. This sudden and drastic onslaught sent the medical industry into a tailspin, with first responders, hospitals and other types of care facilities struggling to provide medical care with dwindling essential supplies. Many manufacturers in all sectors have stepped up and swiftly shifted production to provide critical supplies, including medical devices, sanitization resources and personal protective equipment (PPE) — navigating uncharted territory along the way.

Examples of Manufacturing Innovation in Action
Some of the most prominent news stories of shifts in U.S. manufacturing making headlines in recent weeks has been related to ventilators. We’ve seen medical device makers forming alliances with the aerospace industry and others to speed production and component part supplies needed to produce ventilators – complex devices made up of 1,700 or more parts. And, in what months ago may have seemed like an unexpected turn of events, the automotive industry has stepped into the business of manufacturing critical medical equipment, leveraging their skills in fast manufacturing, logistics and supply chains. The result is the production not only of ventilators, but also of respirator masks and face shields.

On the European front, LVMH, a French-based billion-dollar fashion conglomerate owning luxe brands like Dior, Marc Jacobs and Fendi, quickly converted three perfume-manufacturing facilities to start producing much needed hand sanitizer to help reduce the spread of infection. Meeting France’s call for sanitizer in just 72 hours, it’s estimated that LVMH shipped 12 tons of sanitizer in its first week, free of charge, to French health authorities and to Europe’s largest hospital system. The company plans to continue production as long as necessary, helping employees keep their jobs in the process.

Another example of effective diversification in the COVID-19 environment came thanks to, of all things, a shipping container. Therma-Tron-X, Inc., a Wisconsin-based designer and manufacturer of industrial paint finishing systems and water treatment equipment, partnered with engineers at Michigan Technological University to convert a shipping container into a fully functional mobile sanitizer. Using off the shelf parts including racks and a heating unit, the sanitizer was assembled in just two days. The novel design provides two integral solutions. Not only can it disinfect PPE at temperatures hot enough to break up coronaviruses, like the one that causes COVID-19, but it can also be done quickly, in moveable ovens built with readily available materials. The unit can be heated up to 170°F and can clean 5,000 to 10,000 PPE units every two hours, including larger items like beds, gurneys and other bulky contaminated equipment. The end goal of the engineering team is to make this unit available for the medical industry on a massive scale to help curb the spread of disease and keep healthcare and lab workers safe.

Assessing and Reducing Risk in New Manufacturing Settings
As manufacturing continues to adapt to the profound changes brought on by COVID-19, the industry’s resilience is evident now more than ever. While some companies continue to work around the clock to pump out essential supplies for the front lines, others are adapting out of a different necessity. With global supply chains wreaking havoc on shipments of goods and raw materials, many manufacturers are now refocusing and producing products and equipment that they’ve never worked with before. For some, this requires a complete organizational overhaul, supply chain restructuring, employee trainings and custom products designed to fit their evolving equipment safety needs. While the shift to produce essential PPE and supplies is commendable, doing so without thoroughly assessing risk can cause more harm than good. Producing or running new equipment that has not been assessed for end-user safety can lead to injury, reduced productivity and business liability risk.

Visual Safety Expertise to Support Your Needs
At Clarion Safety, we’re here now more than ever to help support your safety needs. Are you certain that warnings and instructions on equipment that you’re producing is up to today’s best practices? Is your facility operating with new equipment? Are you struggling to implement social distancing and hygiene policies in your facility? For 30 years, Clarion Safety has been helping manufacturers apply ANSI/ISO safety labels to their equipment, as well as helping environmental, health and safety professionals implement effective safety sign systems. We’re hands-on, using our expertise to work closely with customers to provide custom solutions to their challenges. Whether through our quality safety products, including new COVID-19 related labels and signs, or our professional services like workplace/product risk assessments and safety label assessments, our team is ready to help with your unique safety needs. Connect with us to discuss how we can reduce your business liability, increase efficiency and, above all, keep people safe from harm.

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