To meet heavy demand brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Petoskey Plastics Inc. has switched over some blown film extrusion and converting equipment to make non-surgical isolation gowns.
"In less than five days, we've gone through conceptual designs, samples, re-tooling of equipment and now we are ramping up for production to support our medical friends in need," President Jason Keiswetter said.
The company switched over one blown film line and up to four converting lines to make the product. Now Petoskey is working to help other film extruders that have similar equipment so they can follow its example.
"Currently we are working hard to collaborate globally with companies we already know have similar equipment as Petoskey Plastics," Keiswetter said. "We recommend other like companies gather their engineers and designers to develop health care products that are compatible with their existing equipment."
The Petoskey, Mich.-based film extruder and recycler began making the gowns on March 21. Initial capacity is 10,000 gowns per day, with plans to increase production at its Petoskey film plant.
"Our engineering staff is focused on ramping up and expanding our own production as quickly as possible to support immediate needs," Keiswetter said.
While Michigan residents have been under a shelter-in-place order that started March 24, Petoskey Plastics remains open because the company is considered critical infrastructure. Most administrative and sales associates are working remotely, however.
In addition to the health care personal protection equipment, the company also makes products including automotive seat covers, trash bags and other specialty films.
The 50-year-old company was Plastics News' 2017 Processor of the Year. It also has plants in Morristown, Tenn., and Hartford City, Ind.
The company worked closely with infection prevention experts at McLaren Health Care to develop the prototype.
"This urgent, proactive action by Petoskey Plastics will help maintain the safety of thousands of patients and staff across the state of Michigan," McLaren North Michigan CEO Todd Burch said.
"Petoskey Plastics is setting an example for what Michigan manufacturers can do to support health care institutions during this crisis," he said.
Both McLaren Northern Michigan, a subsidiary of McLaren Health Care, and Petoskey Plastics are based in Petoskey.
"Once we identified the apron as a potential fit, we immediately came together as a company. I'm very proud of our engineers, plant associates, and sales team for quickly identifying a workable solution," Keiswetter said.
Petoskey Plastics already has experience making products for the medical industry. The company makes blood and viral barrier protective film, autoclave and biohazard bags.
Using similar materials and technology, the isolation gowns will be made on converted lines that are typically dedicated to making protective automotive seat covers.
This isolation gown is made with 3-ply medical barrier blue film and is a one-size-fits-all apron design.
Michael Tramontini, Petoskey's senior research & development engineer, said he was grateful to be in a position to help with the safety of patients and health care workers.
"It really shows that we are dedicated to our mission of earning the appreciation and respect of our customers, associates, and communities," Tramontini said.
Petoskey is experiencing heavy demand for the gowns, so it is directing potential customers to petoskeyplastics.com/isolation-gowns, a new section of its website, for information.
"Our goal here is to make sure gowns get to the right people without wasting valuable time," Keiswetter said.