Skip to main content

Private Industry Pitching In to Produce PPE to Augment Government Supplies

Companies and organizations continue to band together and switch their production and supply chains to make contributions to help first responders and the public battle the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the country.

In some cases, efforts are being made to augment government efforts, while in others, executives contend, they are filling in where government has been lacking or because domestic production has been so depleted over the years.

Lisa Morales-Hellebo and Brian Aoaeh, founders of The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation (TWSCF), have created a global clearinghouse to carefully vet and onboard personal protective equipment (PPE) and related suppliers, along with setting fixed pricing.

TWSCF partnered with Joor, a tech-enabled fashion wholesale platform and marketplace that connects thousands of brand manufacturers and retailers. Joor is providing TWSCF with a private marketplace for its verified suppliers and buyers that enables instant access and scale for manufacturers, and those who need it most on the front lines.

“We are taking orders through our private marketplace platform and harnessing the time and energy of JOOR employees who have volunteered to reach the thousands of brands who use us and engage them in the effort,” Kristin Savilia, CEO of Joor, said.

Airtable, an online data collaboration company, has also been helping with the global database, while logistics partners are in place to manage shipments from four regional hubs around the country.

“It’s a terrific example of a localized, agile and collaborative network,” Aoaeh said.

Related Stories

Brands such as Tibi, Everlane, Vera Bradley, Citizens of Humanity, Guess and Walter Baker are participating.

“We’re also enabling small factories to rehire their workers that they recently laid off,” Aoaeh said. “We’re not limited to fashion. We’ve been documenting innovative ‘Made in the USA’ filtration materials for masks, new open source and lower cost ventilators and emerging certified innovations for sterilization and reuse of existing PPE, sourced from around the world.”

Morales-Hellebo said if there is any silver lining to this global crisis, it has made crystal clear that globalized supply chains are at risk.

“The reshoring of our critical supply chains has been a long time coming under increasing urgency due to severe weather linked to climate change, trade wars, tariffs, the push for sustainability, circularity and transparency, and now due to pandemics,” she told Sourcing Journal. “Localization should be a priority to help stabilize local economies, create jobs and ensure our national security…What we have done is absolutely necessary and it should be a priority to pay our American workers for this new emergency supply chain.”

The effort is capable of producing millions of Deaconess masks, N95 masks, surgical gowns, hospital gowns, isolation gowns, face shields and even ventilators in the U.S., she said.

“The problem is that nobody is willing to pay for these local workers to go back to work at their own personal peril to produce this supply,” Morales-Hellebo said. “Government contracts have been relying on the likes of 3M and Ford to spin up their large-scale production, but they have timelines of achieving 500,000 masks by the end of May. We have a network of factories who are desperate to not go out of business and are willing to start shipping today if given the right tech packs, Made in the USA materials, and purchase orders.”

TWSCF is a collaborative and mutually supportive coalition of open and multidisciplinary grassroots communities focused on supply chain, innovation and technology. Each chapter brings together startups, large corporations, small and medium-size businesses, technologists, supply chain professionals, investors, journalists, corporate treasury, regulators, academics, and research and development specialists to help navigate the complex, evolving, and changing supply chain landscape.

Buxton Midyette, vice president of marketing and Promotions at Supima, said Monday that early last week he put out a plea for help to Supima Design Competition alumni who work in the fashion industry that Supima would gladly send them fabrics if they could make masks.

“The response was immediate, overwhelming and profoundly moving,” Midyette said. “We had 35 designers respond, plus I connected with the incredible relief groups Sew4lives and Operation COVID-19 Garment Revival. My wife Lisa and I spent the day at the Supima office cutting, packing and shipping out 300 plus meters of Supima fabric that we had on hand for the Supima Design Competition.”

He estimated that the fabric they sent out, plus 160 yards from Design Knit, a Supima licensee in California, will make approximately 13,000 to 14,000 masks.  All these masks will be donated to NYC hospitals and/or groups in need that are local to design competition designers.

Similar to other efforts in the past couple of weeks, Philadelphia-based performance apparel manufacturer Boathouse has pivoted all of its assets and facilities from its core Sports Team business toward urgently needed (PPE) for medical professionals.

On April 1, the company announced that it had already inspected and packed its first pallet of masks for local Philadelphia hospitals.

“We have always been committed to doing the right thing over our three decades as a company, including manufacturing all Boathouse apparel in our vertically integrated, Philadelphia USA factory,” founder and CEO John Strotbeck said. “Now, we are committed to helping the medical community as much as we possibly can, using what we always have–our ingenuity, speed, and agility–to respond.”

The pivot aims to address many problems, including getting the company’s employees back to work, which it’s doing while taking precautions to keep employees safe, Strobeck said, as well as providing essential medical personnel lifesaving protective supplies to ensure that doctors and nurses stay safe and healthy as they fight the pandemic.

“Our goal now is to concurrently make isolation gowns, surgical gowns and masks,” he said. “By making the switch to medical PPE, we’ll be able to get our people safely back to work while helping with the pandemic relief effort.”

Boathouse will be sending its first deliveries to local Philadelphia hospitals this week.