The Covid-19 pandemic continues to give local companies opportunities to show the best of the human spirit.
With an existing connection to the medical industry, and facing a two-week shutdown, Whitney Plastics in Lindsay used the time to retool operations and start forming much-needed plastic face shields.
As office manager, Beverly Primrose explains, Whitney Plastics sits in a grey area when it comes to the non-essential designation. With a contract to produce medical trays for Pharmasystems, they felt they had a case for being declared an essential business, but were unable to get a clear answer from the government on whether they should remain open or not. They elected to err on the side of caution and did a two-week voluntary shut down.
With the crushing news about the situation at Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon filtering into the community, Whitney Plastics owner and president, Dale Schumacher, questioned what he could do to make a contribution to the battle against the spread of the novel corona virus.
He saw a company in New York state make 3D-printing face shields, and felt his operation was capable of making them as well. He tried 3D printing once, but when it took six hours to complete, he took another approach and made one suitable as a mould for vacuum forming.
As one of the last small shops based on the “thermaforming” process, the Lindsay company was able to pivot and quickly bring on line the new product. Schumacher continued to tweak his 3D-printing prototype during some late nights at the shop, and solved some supply chain problems.
Now, after a week and a half of refinements, Schumacher expects to be producing 600 per hour when they reopen on Monday, a prospect he considers “exciting and scary.” While he has filled large orders for huge corporations, this work holds a different importance. The project is priced to basically just cover expenses.
Staff will be following all the new health protocols and the facility has the luxury of space, so machines will be moved apart to keep employees a safe distance from each other.
Lindsey Schoenmakers, economic development officer- business, for Kawartha Lakes, is pleased with Whitney Plastics’ decision.
“We are proud of the way our local manufacturers have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with agility and creativity. Their work will be life-saving,” she tells the Advocate.
Schumacher was quick to point out that response from his suppliers has been overwhelming. He drove to Waterloo to pick up components needed for retooling, when the order that typically would have taken two weeks to fulfill was available in five days.
The anti-fog plastic used in the shield normally has a three to four week turnaround after an order, but his current supply arrived in eight days. He says as soon as he mentions what the end product will be, everyone in the supply chain does what they can to expedite the process.
Whitney Plastics moved to Lindsay in 2011 when Schumacher took over the company his father had started in Kitchener. This is their 60th year of supplying customers as diverse as Research In Motion and Home Hardware.