DARIEN — Through collaboration and adaptability, two companies have switched production models to manufacture personal protective equipment to keep employees working and to help meet national demand for the equipment.
Protect-All Inc., which typically manufactures packaging films, lamination and thermal films, has altered production to create plastic face masks.
While the Protect-All plant at 109 Badger Parkway is still producing films used to seal products like fruit cups, workers now also are using their materials to craft plastic face shields suitable for medical, hospitality or food industries during the coronavirus pandemic.
Lisa Trajkovich, vice president and chief operations officer, said Protect-All already was stocking polyester film and other materials used to make shields. The operation needed only to acquire plastic rivets, foam and elastic to start making the protective face shields.
“As we started hearing about the shortages of PPE, we started putting thought into what we can do in our building,” Trajkovich said. “And the face shields seemed like a natural fit.”
But there was one hitch: With so many businesses and organizations around the country making personal protective equipment, elastic was in short supply.
That was when Protect-All turned to a neighboring business located not far away.
Trajkovich said her company was able to work with Royal Basket Trucks Inc., 201 Badger Parkway, which manufactures carts used to collect linens and other materials.
Royal Basket President Tom Carney said he was happy to share elastic to help a neighboring business produce much-needed protective equipment during coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
“If we can all pitch in a little bit, good things happen,” Carney said.
Now that the needed raw materials have been acquired, Trajkovich said Protect-All is able to produce more than 500 shields a day.
Derek D’Auria, executive director of the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance, praised the two neighboring businesses for working together to supply needed equipment to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
While many manufacturers in the region are deemed essential businesses because they craft products for medical, defense, transportation and food industries, orders for other manufacturers have declined notably, D’Auria said.
“The partnership of Protect-All and Royal Basket Trucks during this COVID-19 crisis is a great example of the resourcefulness of our manufacturers in Walworth County,” he said in a written statement.
With a large segment of its business coming from the largely-idle hospitality sector, Royal Basket has made its own switch, too, to help in the cause against the coronavirus.
The plant is now creating cotton face masks, to make up for lost profit and to keep its employees in the work force.
“It’s our responsibility to do our best job to keep all of our employees here and employed as opposed to going on unemployment,” Carney said. “So even if we hadn’t done this, we would have figured out something. Employees are the core of our business.”
After experimenting with different mask designs and securing 100 percent cotton from a supplier, Carney said his staff can easily produce more than 1,000 masks a day.
Carney said the most difficult aspect of switching production models — as Protect-All discovered — is finding materials at a time when such raw materials are in high demand throughout the country.
However, having more than 20 sewing machines in his facility and a number of talented workers, Carney said he hopes to begin creating protective gowns. He added that Protect-All may even be able to provide materials for a plastic layer inside the gown.
Both Carney and Trajkovich said they have already received inquiries from locations throughout the country interested in purchasing the equipment — some even looking for large quantities.
Trajkovich said she has been glad to partner with Carney at Royal Basket as they work to provide equipment to essential workers in the Lake Geneva region and throughout the country.
“We’ve been a resource to each other, and we may or may not be able to complement each other with raw materials,” she said. “But we have the same attitude of, ‘What can we do for our community?’”
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