A Pinellas Park manufacturer could shift part of its production line to make lightweight, low-cost face shields to help stem the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus.
Madico, which makes window films, coatings and laminates, has developed prototypes of the face shields that healthcare and emergency management personal are reviewing.
“If they are acceptable to the healthcare community then we’ll start making them for local needs,” Shawn Kitchell, CEO, told the St. Pete Catalyst.
Madico is among dozens of local companies that have stepped up to help Pinellas County work through the pandemic. In addition to working on face shields, the company has donated hand sanitizer for first responders and contributed personal protective equipment by asking its supplier, Fastenal, to contribute cleanroom suits.
The county is collecting personal protective equipment and disinfectants at drop-off locations. Starting Monday, drop-off sites will be open at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg and Walsingham Park in Seminole, a news release said. More information about how local businesses can help is here.
Madico has long had a presence in Pinellas County, with a manufacturing operation that formerly was in St. Petersburg. The company moved its corporate operations here from suburban Boston in 2017, and opened a quarter-million-square-foot headquarters and manufacturing facility in Pinellas Park in February.
“One of our core values as a company is to help citizens in the community. We felt we should do everything we can to support community needs,” Kitchell said.
He took part in a phone call with Pinellas County officials, other manufacturers, emergency responders, BayCare Health System and other healthcare providers earlier this week.
“They talked about all the things that were critically needed — N95 masks, face shields, gowns, hand sanitizer and a list of items that local manufacturers make or can source,” Kitchell said. “We work in a clean room environment and we have clean room suits so we donated all the suits we could gather up, about eight boxes. Fastenal is our supplier for those so we put the county in contact with Fastenal to get more.”
Face shields also were discussed during the phone call.
“Although that’s not a business we’re in, we thought we could provide something that could be used in that area. After the call we put our engineers to work and within a few hours we had a prototype of a face shield we think could be used. We sent pictures to the county, they were interested and shared them with fire and emergency providers,” Kitchell said.
Madico has since made about a dozen prototypes that are being reviewed. Kitchell is ready to start production of them if they get the go-ahead.
Madico has been deemed an essential business, because the products it makes are key to maintaining the U.S. infrastructure. While it remains open, the company has taken steps to protect its workers.
The company, with a global workforce about 200, has about 150 employees in Pinellas Park, but it has transitioned workers who can work remotely to work from home, so only about 60 workers are present at any one time in the local plant.
Madico also has stopped all non-essential travel, cancelled events, and changed its on-site production meetings. Instead of gathering in a conference room, employees meet in an open warehouse. Other internal meetings also are done by teleconference, even when employees are in the same building. A cleaning company is sanitizing all high-touch areas multiple times a day and each employee has hand sanitizer.
“My biggest job has been one of trying to keep people calm – it’s a very scary time and there’s a lot of misinformation in social media. We’re trying to help people know what’s fact and what is not fact and what to do to protect themselves and others,” Kitchell said. “One thing that’s for sure — people talk about going back to normal, but the benchmark for normal has forever changed after this. This will have a lasting impact on our society for a long time.”