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From UPS to Ralph Lauren, Fashion, Textiles and Logistics Prioritize PPE

UPS is operating flights to deliver 1.7 million face masks made by textile producer SanMar, which has converted its apparel production facilities in Honduras and Tennessee to support protective mask manufacturing and distribution in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

SanMar reached out to UPS and the company moved quickly to provide supply chain and global shipping services for each phase of the collaboration.

“The national response by companies to the coronavirus pandemic is inspiring,” Kate Gutmann, UPS chief sales and solutions officer, said. “SanMar’s leadership is the perfect example of the speed and determination required to protect people on the front lines.”

Since the program began at the end of March, SanMar has manufactured more than 100,000 masks at its Tennessee production facility. When the masks are completed, UPS will ship the cargo to healthcare providers throughout the U.S.

Production and distribution started this month of more than 1.7 million masks produced at SanMar’s Honduras location for shipment to its Jacksonville, Fla., distribution center. The masks will be shipped by UPS Air Freight on pallets and then repackaged to the correct quantities for distribution by UPS’s small package division to healthcare providers around the United States.

“We knew immediately that SanMar should be part of this effort as a result of our ability to make and sew textiles here in the U.S., as well as in Central America,” Renton Leversedge, chief customer officer for SanMar, said. “We have manufacturing expertise and we have scale, which enables us to take part in this very important work.”

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UPS, based in Atlanta, has also added more than 200 company-owned and chartered air freighter flights in April to support FEMA’s Project Airbridge and other healthcare-related missions. Project Airbridge is a public-private partnership to get vital and life-saving equipment to where it is needed with greater speed. These additional flights serve to meet the soaring demand to ship test kits, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies necessary for the global response effort.

“With our scale and flexible global network, we are in a unique position to handle coronavirus response shipments for FEMA and healthcare customers,” David Abney, UPS chairman and CEO, said.

UPS has also partnered with 3M and FEMA to ship millions of masks to the U.S. for use by healthcare professionals and other frontline workers, and delivered some 250 drums of hand sanitizer to healthcare providers and first responders, with plans to deliver more across the country. In addition, it opened dedicated space for FEMA in a 450,000-square-foot healthcare distribution center at the UPS Worldport facility in Louisville, Ky., the company’s automated global Air hub, to fulfill urgent orders for U.S. delivery overnight.

FedEx has also been involved in Project Airbridge and in coordination with DuPont, two initial shipments were transported from Vietnam to Texas carrying more than 450,000 Tyvek protective suits earlier this month, with 500,000 suits to be shipped each week this month. FedEx will also operate several flights this week carrying PPE for Medline Industries Inc. from China to Illinois. Medline anticipates bringing 7 million facemasks, additional PPE and anesthesia supplies to the United States.

AirX makes face masks from coffee yarn
AirX makes face masks from coffee yarn AirX

Similar efforts are being made throughout the apparel and textile industry to aid in providing PPE. Burlington is supporting Ralph Lauren Corp. in transitioning production to make isolation gowns for healthcare and other community workers in New York, New Jersey and North Carolina on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.

Burlington and Ralph Lauren have a long-time relationship that includes years of creating uniforms for U.S. Olympians and other classic apparel products. Burlington is now expanding this collaboration to provide its advanced barrier Maxima fabrics and technical expertise to support Ralph Lauren in the manufacturing of personal protective equipment (PPE).

In a time of such scarcity, medical apparel made from reusable fabrics offers the ability to keep a constant flow of protective garments, keeping front line workers protected and focused on patient care.

“Our expertise in fabric innovation and advanced technical fabrics is allowing us to be a resource to brands like Ralph Lauren, [that] are stepping up to meet a great need for PPE,” said Allen Smith, president of Burlington’s Safety Components & A&E–Americas division. “Teams at both Burlington and Ralph Lauren are pivoting from our traditional collaborations to more technical conversations and guidance on new fabric constructions.”

Burlington says its Maxima line of reusable fabrics is highly protective, offers maximum durability after repeated launderings and is comfortable to wear. In addition to advanced protection, reusable fabrics offer sustainable and cost-effective solutions to address the extreme global shortage of PPE.

Cotton Leads, a program born out of partnership between the Australian and U.S. cotton industries, is partnering with several companies that have joined the fight in protecting those on the front lines in the medical industry by converting their manufacturing outfits and dedicating time and resources to produce cotton masks.

Despite deployment of the Defense Deployment Act, the demand for masks, and the shortage of them, persists. In response, Cotton Leads has joined in to help companies manufacturing masks and providing resources to fight COVID-19.

Companies that have pivoted their production include Amana Woolen Mill, Gerber Technology, Brooks Brothers, the Duck Company, Fruit of the Loom, Gap Inc., Hanesbrands, Joann, Kontoor Brands, L.L. Bean, Standard Textile Co., Supima, Target and Thomaston Mills.

Looking for an alternative to single-use disposable face masks, Vietnamese company AirX has created a coffee mask that is said to be antibacterial, reusable, vegan and biodegradable.

“AirX is not just a recommendation to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but preserve the planet, as well,” said ShoeX founder Thanh Le, noting that the company can produce up to 10,000 masks per day. “The face mask deserves to have a longer life than just one-time use.”

AirX uses dual antibacterial technology for two layers of protection. The first layer is woven from coffee yarn using PowerKnit technology, which provides a comfortable fit but softness for sensitive skin. The face mask has a biodegradable filter inside, which is developed with silver nanotechnology and coffee.

AirX has also developed a recycled AirX coffee mask with the N95 feature that will be launched soon.