The new gowns are individually wrapped and come 15 to a box. The old approach, developed quickly to help meet an emergency need, featured 200 gowns on a 32-pound roll.
"We've developed some relationships in the health care market, and we've just really noticed there is a lack of domestic sources in the U.S. that can manufacture disposable polyethylene gowns at a competitive price to imports," Keiswetter said.
The company stopped making its initial gown design in 2021 and went back to the drawing board with an aim to create a new product.
"We had a little bit of a pause while we designed this new custom-built machine," he said, to manufacture "a gown that's more compatible to the gowns in the marketplace today."
"We had a whole engineering team; we worked with the health care market on the design that we wanted to develop. And then we had our engineering team work very hard on some custom components. Brand-new machine from start to finish, all custom, to be able to convert these gowns at a high rate," Keiswetter said.
The new gown and packaging, designed for ease of use, primarily will be sold through health care supply distributors.
Medical gowns being produced by Petoskey Plastics are for applications outside of surgery where protection is still needed. The company will use its own Steelcoat brand for the gowns and make private-label products.
The company converted 10,000 square feet of former food packaging warehouse space to accommodate new medical gown manufacturing. The company anticipates adding a second production line next year.
Initial production will be 2 million gowns a month and double when the second machine is installed, Vice President of Sales Mike Barto said. Petoskey Plastics produced more than 5 million gowns during initial production in 2020 and 2021.
Petoskey Plastics expects to add 10 jobs with the new production and a total of 25 jobs, including packers and operators, after the second line is installed.
Along with identifying a business opportunity, Keiswetter said production of this new gown provides a domestic source for medical gowns after shortages during COVID-19 uncovered America's reliance on overseas products.
"This is just another example of continuing to innovate, delivering something new to the market," Keiswetter said. "This another great example of working together to do something new for domestic-made American products and not relying so heavily on imports."