Workforce Skills Helping Manufacturers Switch Production to Fight COVID-19

To understand what's happening behind the scenes, IndustryWeek asked some companies about the workforce skills they are finding to be most valuable during these changeovers.


Manufacturing companies have quickly responded to the need for an increase in medical supplies necessary to fight COVID-19. For some companies this means adding new production lines to make products they have never made before. Others are forging partnerships so that each company can contribute their expertise to create products as quickly as possible.


To understand what's happening behind the scenes, Peter Fretty IndustryWeek tech editor asked some companies about the workforce skills they are finding to be most valuable during these changeovers.


The digital workforce has quite literally been the “force” supporting this change, " explains Todd Rovak, Global Head of Innovation & Strategy at Capgemini Invent.


"Those companies, team members, volunteers, teachers, and administrators who embraced technology were quickest to succeed in a new operating environment. Many of our clients have been pleasantly surprised that working virtually is productive, in some cases even more productive than working in person.


For example, several clients who use agile development methodologies have hosted their program increment planning meetings virtually using a variety of tools to enable team collaboration. These planning meetings are typically two-day, in-person meetings that occur every 10-12 weeks to map out the next increments of work. We’ve helped to facilitate several of these meetings virtually and the overwhelming feedback from leaders and participants is that they loved virtual planning, and some said they preferred it. "


 

JMA

JMA led a joint effort with Dr. John Callahan and Syracuse University to develop an emergency mechanical ventilation system. This emergency system is designed to augment existing ventilator supply in the short term, providing key basic ventilation functions to relieve doctors of the need to make life-and-death decisions due to a ventilator shortage. JMA has formed Prevail NY to manufacture the ventilator. In pre-clinical testing, the ventilator was able to provide and restore ventilation in acute respiratory distress syndrome damaged lungs, an advanced symptom of COVID-19. Asked about its workforce the company said:" We are a fully functioning manufacturing company so we have several workforce skills on hand that proved to be important for this. Those skills included CNC, metal work, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and software development and engineering."

 


New Balance

New Balance has developed and is currently scaling production of a general-use face mask. Developed in consultation with local experts, including Bob Langer of MIT’s Langer Lab and local medical institutions, New Balance produced its first face mask prototype less than a week ago. By mid-April, the goal is to make up to 100,000 units weekly at its Lawrence, Mass. and Norridgewock, Maine factories combined. Asked about its workforce the company said:" We are proud to combine the industrial R&D expertise and innovative thinking of our associates with our domestic manufacturing resources to work to solve new and extraordinary product challenges, reflecting our brand’s purpose-driven culture and leveraging our skilled American workers in our New England factories."


 

Mohawk Industries

Mohawk Industries and Fabric Sources International combined resources to address urgent medical supply needs at Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton, Ga. and Emory Healthcare in Atlanta during the COVID-19 outbreak. Using fabric provided by FSI, Mohawk Home’s Dalton-based rug manufacturing facility is providing industrial sewing equipment for their skilled employees to produce vitally needed medical protective gear for doctors, nurses and other care providers.. Production has now expanded over the past two weeks from a handful of gowns to 1,200 per day, with plans to continue speeding up the process. Asked about its workforce the company said: "Designing, engineering and sewing skills have been crucial during this process. Mohawk worked quickly to disassemble a medical isolation gown, measure it, copy the size, cut out a pattern by hand, and sew it back together. Earl Nichols, Mohawk Home senior engineer, and the team broke down every step into a separate process for the team and set up a small assembly line in a day. The sewing team adapted quickly to the new product and material. Production has now expanded over the past two weeks from a handful of gowns to 1,200 per day, with plans to continue speeding up the process.


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