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PPE Glove Maker Uses $81.3 Million to Triple Capacity

Showa Group, an integrated manufacturer of industrial, household and medical personal protective equipment (PPE) gloves based in Fayette, Ala., announced a major facility expansion on Thursday that will triple production capacity to meet growing government and industrial demand for Made in America nitrile single-use gloves.

The phased buildout of two additional facilities will increase the company’s annual domestic production capacity to 1.2 billion gloves by the end of 2022 and 2.8 billion gloves once the build-out is complete. Showa also said it has also received contracts from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) totaling $81.3 million to help drive the expansion.

“Showa has operated as a profitable PPE glove manufacturer with roots in the U.S. going back 50 years and today we have more than 6,500 employees across eight locations worldwide,” said Richard Heppell, president and chief operating officer for the Americas, Oceania and EMEA at Showa Group, a Food & Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medical 510(k) glove manufacturer that meets leak resistance, tear resistance and biocompatibility performance criteria. “Nitrile glove manufacturing is a complex, resource-intensive, multiyear process, one that Showa is uniquely positioned to execute with unmatched production capacity, a proven track record and robust financial resources.”

The company has invested $35 million to expand its Alabama manufacturing facility. The 40,000-square-foot site now includes four additional high-speed monorail lines that will help boost production. The DHHS funding will be utilized for the buildout of two new, adjacent manufacturing facilities that are expected to be operational in June 2023 and September 2024, respectively. Once all three factories are complete, Showa will have a capacity of 2.8 billion gloves annually.

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The company noted that while the U.S. relied heavily on overseas PPE suppliers before the pandemic, Covid-19 exposed supply chain vulnerabilities and a critical need to increase domestic production capacity of nitrile gloves.

“The growing U.S. prioritization of re-shoring PPE demands industry partners that not only talk the talk, but who have truly walked the walk,” Heppell said. “Showa is the first company to produce a PPE nitrile glove on a line built before and during the pandemic, and the only PPE glove manufacturer with the long-term domestic supply arrangements as specified in domestic procurement legislation and acts such as the Berry Amendment and Make PPE in America Act.”

Imported PPE gloves have also run into forced labor issues in their supply chains. Last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a new Withhold Release Order (WRO) against YTY Industry Holdings, detaining at all U.S. ports of entry disposable gloves produced in Malaysia by the company. CBP issued the WRO against YTY Group based on information that reasonably indicates the use of forced labor in YTY’s manufacturing operations. CBP said it identified seven of the International Labor Organization’s 11 indicators of forced labor during its investigation, including abuse of vulnerability, deception, retention of identity documents, intimidation and threats, debt bondage, abusive working and living conditions, and excessive overtime.

Last month, CBP issued a WRO on all disposable gloves produced in Malaysia by Brightway Group based on information that “reasonably indicates the use of forced labor” during manufacturing. Supermax Corp., whose wholly owned subsidiaries include Maxter Glove Manufacturing, Maxwell Glove Manufacturing and Supermax Glove Manufacturing, was similarly sanctioned in October after CBP identified 10 of the ILO’s indicators of forced labor.

In September, CBP lifted a year-long WRO on Top Glove, the world’s biggest manufacturer of medical gloves, after a review of evidence showed that the company addressed all indicators of forced labor. Top Glove dispensed more than $30 million in remediation payments to its employees, the agency said, while improving labor and living conditions at its facilities.