How the Materials and Design Industry is Responding to COVID-19

As the world continues to evolve due to the COVID-19 pandemic, companies in the industry are taking extra precautions to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. What’s more, a number of companies are working to develop new innovations to combat the virus.

Safespace24, developer of patient monitoring systems, recently developed a patient monitoring module (PMM) called the Watchpod for hospitals and emergency services. The system, made from Uniboard products, assembles in 10 minutes and is designed to ensure smooth implementation and utilization. It’s also designed with surfaces that can be disinfected quickly.

Genesis Products is working to offer solutions for healthcare facilities and systems that respect social distancing, especially in the workplace. In addition to heavily promoting its laminate solutions for healthcare, the company’s PET wall systems are great for those who are beginning to return to the office. The privacy screens are built with sound barriers that are great for open office environments. “Companies everywhere are looking for new and different ways to make the working world safer,” said Joe Arcadi, VP of sales and marketing, Genesis Products.

Other companies are using their resources to develop products and solutions designed to directly combat the spread of germs. Chemical company Hexion made plans for their New Zealand and Australia teams to manufacture World Health Organization-approved formulas for hand sanitizer to supply to their community. As a result of COVID-19, certain key consumer products, such as hand sanitizer, have been in short supply across Australia and New Zealand. To alleviate this issue and speed re-stocking, both governments in Australia and New Zealand have adjusted the legislation regarding the qualification/introduction of therapeutic materials, including hand sanitizer. In response to this development, and the need, Hexion ANZ has tested the formulations in their laboratories and have prepared the relevant MOC process to cover this introduction to its sites.

Being a part of an essential industry, several operations have remained open but with safety precautions while others have shifted their employees to work out of their homes.

“We’ve received multiple letters and notifications from our customers who supply the Department of Defense and Aerospace facilities worldwide, who have said that they are essential businesses and are required to keep their facilities operational. These are the Tier 1 suppliers,” said CEO of Kings Mountain International, Steve Wagenknight. “As we dissect the supply chain, KMI is referred to as a Tier 3 supplier. We are a very vital link to Tier 1 in the supply chain. We have been notified to keep our facility in operation and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

Companies like Kings Mountain International, Panel Processing, Burkle and Blum are all taking precautions like EPA-approved cleaning kits in all departments, cancelling/postponing business travel and outside meetings, and having all office personnel work remotely.

In addition, facilities are installing plexiglass shields at all points of contact in the shipping and receiving areas and preparing for the ability to run operations on a skeletal basis. “The current COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of us personally as well as our businesses. This situation will be resolved; in the meantime, business will not be as usual,” said Kurt Palmer, president and CEO of Burkle North America. “During this time, our goal is to minimize any impact upon our mutual business while keeping the health and safety of all people as the top priority. In this uncertain period, I have every confidence in our business communities’ ability to pull together with care and concern for the common good.”

As designers, fabricators and technology professionals work to keep the industry (and the economy) afloat, other companies are working to lend a helping hand. Uniboard, for example, donated 360 masks to Mont-Laurier Hospital and Hexion’s Brazil team provided food and hand sanitizer to their local communities. Hexion associates in Pernis, Netherlands also donated personal protective equipment to a local hospital in response to the shortage.

At the end of April, Hexion announced that chairman and chief executive officer Craig Rogerson would remain on medical leave due to a condition consistent with COVID-19. Tests confirmed that Rogerson contracted the virus. After treatment, subsequent tests have returned negative, but he remains under medical care as he recovers. To ensure that the company is fully functioning at this time, George Knight will serve as acting CEO during Rogerson’s medical leave.

“As we’ve previously communicated, as a company, we are taking various precautionary measures in place to keep the balance of our associates safe and healthy, while minimizing impact to our operations so that we can continue to support our customers,” said Knight.

“We are following guidance from public health officials and government agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). We are working closely with our sites to take the appropriate protective measures and we are, of course, closely following all legislatively-mandated travel directives in the various countries where we operate.”

There have been increasing precautions taken at several facilities in our industry across the globe. And while some precautions may look slightly different for certain offices and manufacturing facilities, the goal of preventing the spread of disease remains the same and the desire to find better solutions remains evident.