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Making a Powerful Pivot to Save Lives

Thursday, 9 April, 2020 Written by MAGNET


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1,500 in two days. That’s how many Ohio manufacturers stepped up to volunteer to produce urgently needed protective equipment for frontline workers fighting COVID-19.

Governor DeWine mobilized the industry on April 1st when he put out a state-wide call for manufacturers to help fight the pandemic. MAGNET is one of the leaders of the Governor’s new public-private partnership called the Ohio Manufacturing Alliance to Fight COVID-19. With the Ohio Manufacturers' Association, the Ohio Hospital Association, the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership (Ohio MEP), JobsOhio and hundreds of manufacturers we’re going to make everything from hand sanitizer to masks to face shields and more.

Our industry is making a powerful pivot to save lives and we couldn’t be prouder. We received this response from one manufacturer, and it captures what we’re hearing from virtually every company.

“My son-in-law is an EMT on a volunteer squad. I have a granddaughter in her last semester in a registered nurse program. And I have multiple relatives who are nurses. I am very, very happy to be ‘in the fight.’ If I can be involved in helping the frontline folks, I'm all in. 110%.”

It’s amazing to see the ingenuity and agility of our manufacturers. MAGNET has already helped Cleveland Whiskey pivot from making bourbon and rye to making hand sanitizer for the Cleveland Clinic. And we’re going to help other spirit producers get what they need to start producing sanitizer or expand their efforts.

We’re also working with the new Manufacturing Alliance to help produce up to one million high-quality, durable, reusable face shields to protect frontline workers from COVID-19 infection.  

“We went from an idea to a prototype to building a new local supply chain to production in less than two weeks. This should have been impossible, but we got it done. It truly shows what our industry is capable of,” said Dr. Ethan Karp, President & CEO of MAGNET.

It took a community army to get this done. As soon we saw an urgent need for these face shields, MAGNET started designing and building the prototype with Case Western Reserve University and Eaton. University Hospitals provided rapid clinical feedback to improve the design and Premier Health and the Cleveland Clinic confirmed it.

Sourcing the plastic locally was almost impossible with raw materials disappearing at record speed but we finally managed to find some. Then we needed the money to buy it. Immediately. State economic development agencies fast-tracked everything and we secured emergency funding through JobsOhio to place a very large order for raw materials and plastics.

“We were on the phone all hours of the day and night. Tracking down plastic leads. Bringing decision makers together to make lightning fast decisions on funding. Driving the prototype back and forth across Cleveland as we improved it based on the doctors’ feedback. The way it all came together was incredible. No one said no. It’s amazing to see how quickly things get done when everyone starts at yes,” said Dr. Karp.

Then came the question of exactly how to manufacture the shields. We decided on one-piece injection molding and plastic as the best and safest option for clinical use because it’s durable and easy to sanitize. That created the next challenge to overcome. The molds for this kind of manufacturing are often made in China. They usually take six to 12 weeks to complete.  But the team solved that problem locally with the help of cutting-edge 3D metal printing – even inventing some new techniques along the way. In the end, 19 companies came together to do the work. (Tremendous thanks to: Acro Tool and Die (now Metalcraft Solutions); Classic Laminations; Die-cut Products Co.; Eaton; Esterle Mold and Machine, Evenflo; GSH Industries; HP Manufacturing; ITEN Industries Inc.; Kent Displays, Inc., Little TikesTM; MTD Products Inc.; Ottawa Rubber Company; Pragmatic Manufacturing LLC.; Premier Seals Manufacturing; Professional Plastics; Talent Tool and Die, Thogus Products; Trifecta Tool & Engineering).

These companies normally make things like plastic toys and engine parts. But they dropped everything, pivoted their production, and began making face shields.

“We jumped right in. We knew there was a need and that we had the talent and technologies to share,” said Terry Ellis, General Manager of Acro Tool and Die (now Metalcraft Solutions). “We really just wanted to help. So far it has been exciting – a great team effort in which our people and business partners are making sacrifices and pushing their personal needs down the priority list.”

This pandemic is a defining moment for our nation, and we are all deeply proud to be able to do something to help.

“Seeing our industry and our community come together like this gives me hope that we can come out of this tragic time stronger and better. With the agility, innovation, and expertise manufacturers are showing, I have no doubt we can rebuild and rebound. If we can produce a million face shields in a month, we can do anything. We can move into the future with a new blueprint for our manufacturing industry built on strong local supply chains, powerful partnerships, and cutting-edge technology,” said Dr. Karp.

The manufacturers who are stepping up to help, and the powerful Alliance behind them, will undoubtedly save the lives of frontline workers. It took less than two weeks from prototype to production for these face shields. Next, we’re going to repeat this with other desperately needed protective equipment. And we’re not going to stop until we defeat this virus, together.