In this Supply Chain Matters blog, we provide added highlights of one contract manufacturer’s effort, that being Jabil, to respond and support the added domestic production of medical personal protective equipment (PPE) needs within the United States.
In a prior blog commentary, Added PPE Shortages Across the U.S.- A Time for Intervention, we highlighted the now second reappearance of critical shortages of medical treatment PPE supplies as the COVID-19 virus occurrences continue to spike-up among certain U.S. States. We further called attention to a published Washington Post report on the increased shortages of PPE which
advocated that the U.S. must consider a national supply network strategy for deemed critical healthcare delivery support needs, as well as highlighted what efforts were underway. Within the U.S., upwards of 90 percent of PPE that was inventoried in the Strategic National Stockpile has reportedly already been distributed to state and local government agencies.
Profiled was that in late June, global contract manufacturing services (CMS) provider Jabil had announced utilization of existing space among three current U.S. production facilities in order to produce at a rate of 1.6 million surgical masks per day, sometime by the Fall.
Since that time, we have been able to get in contact with Charlie Main, Senior Vice President at Jabil regarding the announcement.
According to a published Jabil blog authored by Main, with surgical masks becoming higher in demand and lower in supply, Jabil received a call from one customer, requesting help in resolving the N95 mask shortage. As we explored the possibilities, one ambitious idea emerged: why not design an N95 mask that can be sterilized and reused? It had never been done before, but we thought it held tremendous promise.
Jabil’s additive manufacturing team in Minnesota reportedly worked on the concept in collaboration with the Taichung team. Both groups exchanged ideas in an around the clock effort was able to make advantage of time zone differences. Within 24 hours, the CMS had produced a 3D-printed prototype, and within 48 hours, had gathered constructive feedback and modified the design. After a few more iterations, a functional mask was produced. Prototypes were provided to health professionals in Massachusetts, and the response was positive.
Their blog indicates since the coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan; Jabil has prioritized the safety of its workforce. “Although protective masks were not standard for our workers before COVID-19, we quickly realized that wearing them would be necessary to protect employees whose work is building-dependent.”
In the U.S., the CMS provider has now in the process of launching of a substantial U.S. based face mask manufacturing operation to address the demand for face masks and other PPE supply needs driven by businesses re-opening amid the coronavirus pandemic. Factories in Memphis, Tennessee; Clinton, Massachusetts; and Gurnee, Illinois have begun producing what will scale to 1.6 million single-use face masks per day, with the ability to ramp up to over 2 billion per year by fall 2020.
Main additionally indicated to Supply Chain Matters that the announcement made a few weeks ago refers to US-made industrial masks, which feature three layers that act as a source control barrier. The lightweight, single-use masks have been independently tested to ASTM F2100 performance standards and meet or exceed 98 percent Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE) and Particle Filtration Efficiency (PFE), suitable for most applications. In the coming months Jabil plans to produce FDA rated surgical masks through these operations as well.
We asked Main where demand is coming from and he indicated that while he could not disclose specific names, demand is emanating from U.S. employers like service providers, retail and restaurant chains, airlines, government entities and other essential businesses. “Our offering is attractive to employers looking for large volumes that are independently tested and 100 percent American made.”
He further indicated that in addition to general purpose non-surgical use face masks, the CMS is producing face shields, at the current rate of 5000 per week, in addition to the reusable N95 surgical masks effort now underway.
In summary, here is yet another example where global-wide collaboration and the leveraged use of technologies such as digital product design coupled with additive manufacturing are making a difference in pandemic and medical PPE supply network response. Such efforts in various forms are occurring not only in the U.S. but across the globe including Asia, the Middle East, Europe, the African continent and other regions.
Thank goodness for these efforts since in responding to needs of a pandemic, Supply Chains Do Matter, along with the use of the most appropriate technologies required to move quickly.
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