Things are moving at lightening speed around here. We’ve already completed our first emergency production run for a healthcare facility in need! In two days we cut and sewed an order of 33 barrier gowns for a rehab facility that had contacted us last week. They were desperate and needed something immediately. They have a considerable amount of patients on ventilators for various reasons (not COVID-19 patients) and they called in tears because they were completely out of gowns.
With the FDA approved fabrics in such short supply, we did our research and found a substantially equivalent fabric that is acceptable for level 3 gowns based the material properties. This fabric can actually be found at many home improvement stores. These gowns are technically disposable and can’t be laundered, but can be wiped down and sanitized. Now we are inspired to create a COVID-19 open source platform community project that makers and home sewers can get involved in using our pattern. More info on this will be shared soon.
Our next project will need to be to make masks for our team since we cannot find any to purchase. Originally, after doing so much research into FDA approved PPE, we didn’t think we could make effective and safe masks so we decided to focus on gowns. But we’ve recently sourced the proper materials to make effective, FDA approved surgical masks so we’ll need to start with those in order to be able to keep our own team safe. Tomorrow we’ll be ordering the fabric for those.
Yesterday, a representative from Gerber Technology flew in to analyze our manufacturing space because we are hoping to get their automatic cutter that would enable us to cut more pieces much faster. We’ll need to add it onto our 40 foot cutting table, so it was determined that we may need to remove a portion of our table and/or even more the entire table toward the wall another three feet. We’ll need some muscle for that!
Thanks to the AZ Commerce Authority’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership, we’ve been working with a lean manufacturing expert who has helped us with efficiency in the manufacturing process. With his help, we’ve determined that we can manufacture 500 isolation gowns a day once we ramp up a little more. All we need is 4 more industrial overlock machines and about 12-17 more employees. Then our hope is to eventually duplicate that production line to make 1000 a day and eventually duplicate it two more times which would enable us to do make 2000 a day. This is the scale at which we’d need to work in order to make a dent in the large demand we are getting.
In order to get started we’d need about $40,000. Our facility would need some work to get it prepared, we’d need supplies, we’d incur hiring costs, and we’d need to sterilize our facility.
- Submission of plans, permits and contract electrical work to support additional equipment needs=$6000
- Construction costs to implement minor building modifications to support adding of additional equipment (includes labor, supplies and lift)=$4800
- Upfront costs for 1st payment/deposits, shipping, set-up for leasing of additional equipment. This includes automatic cutter, industrial sewing machines, binding cutter, sorting bins and fabric storage racks=$11,600
- Purchase of consumable supplies to run new equipment and operations (thread, oil, belts, plastic, paper etc.)=$1600
- Start-up hiring costs for 50+ new sewers &line supervisors (non cost-of-goods payroll): recruiting, screening, interviewing, onboarding, training=$14,000
- Initial sterilization of building and daily cleaning maintenance to keep employees safe (COVID-19 SOP)=$2000
Then we’d need more funding to duplicate our manufacturing lines to reach the 2000 units a day.
The FDA approved fabric that we will be using on the first order of reusable isolation gowns should arrive in a day or two. Once its here, we will start with the staff and equipment that we currently have. However, we are being asked to fill an order of 15,000 gowns in less than two weeks. Today, we talked to another facility that wants us to make 15,000 reusable isolation gowns for them as well and needs this order by the end of April at the latest. These orders only account for a fraction of what has been requested.
Since my last post, we’ve received a lot of small, but significantly helpful, donations from the public. Thank you to everyone who has donated. This allows us to cover some of the basic operating expenses and overhead that a 26,000 square foot fashion incubator turn PPE factory demands. We also applied for a couple of larger grants. Crossing our fingers!
Lastly, we’ve been working with AZ Commerce Authority on trying to pool resources with other manufacturers. We have spearheaded efforts to provide a list of facilities in need and help match them with manufacturers. We’ve also decided to share our own intellectual property with other manufacturers to help them make safe, FDA approved items as well. We’re all in this together and as a community resource, we’re here to help.