As cases of COVID-19 spread across the country, manufacturers are pivoting their production lines to include personal protective equipment and other items that can be used by health care facilities and other companies. Several Upstate establishments have joined the effort, producing PPE and disinfectants to add to the nation’s supply.
AFL in Duncan, South Carolina, which produces fiber optic cables and accessories, began 3D printing face shields for local hospitals in April. The project started when Kelvin Turner, an applications engineering manager, spoke with his mother, a nurse practitioner at Spartanburg Regional Hospital, “about the low availability of equipment,” says Turner. “I was trying to help out in that situation.”
When Turner went to AFL management, the company “was immediately on board to help,” he says. Turner and his team at AFL have given more than 250 face shields to local hospitals so far.
Other companies in the Upstate are working to distribute products. Inman-based IFSYS doesn’t produce PPE as defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but does distribute cotton face masks to clients nationwide. “We get the face masks from our partner in Mexico, and we distribute them here in the U.S.,” says Frank Schmitt, president of IFSYS North America. It’s a simple product, but Schmitt says “it’s what they need right now.”
OXYGEN AND VENTILATOR VALVES & HANDS-FREE DOOR HANDLES
IFSYS and its parent company, JOPP, have sold more than 100,000 masks across the globe, according to Schmitt.
Some Upstate companies have turned to producing sanitizer and disinfectants during the pandemic.
Grace Management Group, a home fragrance company that sells under several brands, began producing hand sanitizer after its COO Mary Simon heard that the FDA decided to loosen restrictions around producing sanitizer.
Now, the Spartanburg-based company sells to consumers directly and to businesses. They’ve also donated some around Spartanburg. “We want to do things that matter, and we felt that this really fit our company culture,” says Simon.
Toll Solutions, a Duncan manufacturer producing industrial chemicals, has also gotten into the disinfectant game. “There was a real lack of demand for our core business,” says CEO and president Joseph Wilson. Eventually inquiries came in about the types of cleaning products the company made. This led Wilson and his team to begin producing hand sanitizer and cleaning solutions. The company also has donated sanitizer to local food pantries, Wilson says.
“There’s good commercial reasons for doing this,” he says. “And there’s also really good reasons to help the community right now.”