PVC roofing manufacturer Duro-Last Inc. moved fast to make gowns and face masks, taking advantage of its in-house factory welding expertise.
The goal: 10,000 gowns a week.
"We're selling these at cost. We are not making any money at it," Andrea Fisher, director of marketing at the company in Saginaw, Mich., said.
Duro-Last typically welds seams on custom-made vinyl roofs. Using that expertise, the Duro-Last team went from prototype to production in one week. Fisher said in just five days, the company made 11 prototype gowns and went through four rounds of development for the masks.
"It was just a retooling of the positioning of the welder and getting the production line set up to accommodate the gowns and the masks," Fisher said. "Essentially we just took products and equipment from our existing portfolio and pulled them apart and used them to manufacture the gowns and the masks."
She said Duro-Last was deemed an essential manufacturing operation in Michigan because it makes PVC membrane roofing for hospitals and military facilities. Still, the new medical work is keeping people working.
"About 50 people who would have been laid off, we no longer had to lay them off because we're manufacturing these items," Fisher said.
The gowns are made from flexible PVC, so they are water- and fluid-repellent. The masks are washable and reusable, made from polyester Dura-Fleece and the ties are from PVC strapping. All the materials are made from Duro-Last roofing products.
"This is about helping health care professionals in any way we can and at the same time keeping people employed," CEO Tom Saeli said. "I am very proud of and impressed by the people in our company who quickly developed these products."
Saeli said the United States has lots of entrepreneurial people who can serve to help beat the pandemic.
"The need is real and I believe it's our obligation to act now," he said.