Surgical Mask Glow Stick: Companies Pivot to Address Coronavirus Shortage

Surgical Mask Glow Stick: Companies Pivot to Address Coronavirus Shortage

A month ago, Azim Maknojiya had a fun business, producing promotional wristbands, glow sticks and straps for large events. Currently, his company, Ionized, deals with life and death. Leveraging 10 years worth of connections with Chinese manufacturers and international shippers, Ionized has brought highly-needed protective medical equipment, such as gowns, face shields and N95 masks, into a coronavirus outbreak. We are working to bring it to the US.

“It’s a little
Scary ” acknowledges Maknojiya who has never experienced before
With medical equipment. “It’s a daily learning curve,
There is a demand for these products and we are trying
We will do our best to meet it.

That demand is unprecedented. Critical equipment shortages are already common throughout the United States long before the predicted peak of the coronavirus pandemic. In New York City, doctors and nurses have been improvised by using trash bags instead of medical scrubs and protective gowns. In California, nurses are protesting limited access to personal protective equipment, often abbreviated as PPE.

Existing producers of protective gear seem to be doing as much as they can. Conglomerate 3M said on Sunday it had increased to “maximum production” of PPE, including the N95 mask 3M, and said that all of these masks had been diverted from retailers to healthcare professionals. According to Honeywell, mask production has already more than doubled.

But that’s not enough, and the shortage could get worse as the pandemic spreads in the United States. Thus, manufacturers and importers are reorganizing factories, reshaping the supply chain, operating red tape to save lives, and in some cases, mitigating a major blow to normal business.

Gap, the parent company of the Republic of Banana and Old Navy, said this week that it will move its plant to produce fabric masks, gowns and scrubs. Meanwhile, Fanatics, a major league baseball online retailer, has announced that it will also manufacture masks and gowns.

PPE pivot

Brian Hahn, chief operating officer of electronics accessory producer Nomad, is working closely with Nomad’s factory in China to shift production from accessories such as Apple AirPods cases to surgical face masks. Although including installing new machines, the migration was relatively minor, according to Hahn. “These are the same kind of machine. Things are surprisingly modular,” he says.

[This is in contrast to the complex and slow process of starting a new ventilator production, which is in great demand for the treatment of very sick COVID-19 patients.]

Getting products where they are needed most is another challenge. A new initiative, called Project N95, which was established on March 20, has quickly become the leading information center for equipment requests and offers. Co-founder Andrew Stroup says that as of March 26, Project N95 has responded to requests from 1,958 hospitals and healthcare facilities that require 9 million protective devices and has contacted more than 940 producers. It says.

However, while Project N95 is a non-profit organization, manufacturers looking to pharmaceuticals are not.

“Of course we do it for business reasons,” says Hahn. “We are not trying to make a profit, but hiring people after stopping the literal pandemic is the second priority. That’s the end # 2.” Was assigned to a new protective device initiative from roles such as sales and forecasting.

Both Hahn and McNojiya state that their regular business lines have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Among other products, Ionized manufactures custom straps for meetings, almost all of which have been canceled worldwide. According to McNojiya, his business has fallen by 80% since the end of February.

and it is
As we continue to hire more people in the short term, medical supplies
Exchange business lost in a sudden recession. “far cry,”
The Bakumatsuya says. “I’m lucky if I can make 20% [of normal revenue].
Of this. “

Red tape

While Maknojiya has worked with established PPE producers, Hahn says Nomad aims to add new production capacity for face shields, surgical gowns, and N95 masks. To do so, you need to deal with considerable regulations. In particular, the N95 mask is regulated by several different US government agencies, and some groups that wish to expand domestic production are waiting 45-90 days for regulatory approval.

However, in the current crisis, some types of red tape may be even more important. For example, a desperate healthcare professional may use AliExpress, an online marketplace that currently displays a list of thousands of N95 or similar masks. However, McNojiya said he had seen evidence that the factory was misrepresenting the certification for manufacturing N95 masks. Another marketplace platform, Shopify, has recently been found to be home to thousands of new storefronts selling PPE. At least part of it is ultimately sourced from AliExpress.

According to Maknojiya, Ionized was able to use its existing quality control team to evaluate its partner factories in China. By then, he encouraged cities and hospitals to consider new suppliers to prevent fraud by asking for a list of previous customers and then independently verifying that the products sold were as advertised. To do.

of Chinese treatment

Many factories manufacturing pharmaceuticals are located overseas, especially in China. However, while there may be a wide range of reasons to worry about the change, the current crisis is also showing clear benefits as Chinese manufacturers have recovered since the recent coronavirus attack.

“Chinese beauty is now fully functional,” says Maknojiya. “The capacity is 100%.”

Similarly, Nomad ships surgical masks from mainland China through fully operational warehouses in Hong Kong. He said he was focusing on “extinguishing” by using FedEx’s international air cargo service to ship small lots of less than 1,000 masks in just two days.

“This is not a” Chinese disease “,” Hahn emphasized, contradicting President Trump’s use of the word “Chinese virus.” “This is China and could save us all.”

Other Fortune essential articles:

-Coronavirus pandemic reveals how the United States is preparing for cyber conflict
-Country is sending text warning about COVID-19. Should I play cards
—Are you the latest viral influencer from TikTok? Personal finance star
With -5G, wearable devices are expected to become even more science fiction
Listening to Leadership Next, a Fortune podcast explores the evolving role of the CEO
—Watch: Best Earbuds for 2020: Apple AirPods ProVs. Sony WF-1000XM3

Keep an eye on Fortune’s daily digest of technology business datasheets.

. [TagsToTranslate] Coronavirus