Rising to the Challenge

By Joan Mantini

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to pose unprecedented challenges to businesses across the globe, and these companies are indeed reacting to ensure new demands and production expectations are met. However, a significant challenge during the current crisis is the demand peak of masks, gowns, face shield and other supplies.

Across the globe we have, and continue to, witness companies repurposing production and R&D capabilities to support the fight against COVID-19. From auto manufacturers stepping up and providing hospital gowns and face masks, to local breweries providing hand sanitizer and disinfecting sprays.

Turning our focus to the packaging industry – an industry deemed essential, we are witnessing companies that have not just remained committed to production at full capacity, but companies that have upped production rates to keep up with the increase in demands, going above and beyond to meet the challenges of COVID-19.

What follows are company reports highlighting how several of the businesses within our industry are providing essential services and shining during this pandemic by increasing production rates, creating new partnerships, producing personal protection equipment (PPE), and more – all while creating new, safe working environments for their employees.

Industrial Indexing Systems, Inc.

Industrial Indexing Systems, Inc. (IIS) customers buy products and services backed by forty years of experience in engineering, design, manufacturing and testing in the automation control industry. The company works with the customer to understand the goal of their plan to recommend the parts for a system guaranteed to perform as expected.

Many of the company’s customers are machine builders for the food, beverage and medical industries. At the beginning of COVID-19, the Department of Homeland Security quickly realized and implemented procedures on the essential critical infrastructure workforce, allowing operations to keep going. These procedures, in turn, affected IIS with expectations of business as per usual for continued operations. Supporting its customers worldwide allowed the company’s machines to continue production lines with critical high-quality OEM spare parts, along with field service assistance and technical calls for quick response to assist with our motion control technology.

IIS has been an essential business during this period, with half of the company working at home and one-half taking care of procurement, manufacturing and shipping. Good customer relationships are its priority, and the company recognized that it has been able to maintain them despite of all the changes.

Ardagh Group

Ardagh Group, Glass – North America, a business unit of Ardagh Group has partnered with Heritage Distilling Co. to produce and supply glass bottles for hand sanitizer during the coronavirus pandemic. Shortly after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, Heritage Distilling Co. switched from producing and bottling spirits to producing and bottling FDA- and WHO-compliant hand sanitizer for consumer and business use at their Gig Harbor, Wash., and Eugene, Ore., distilleries.

“The need for hand sanitizer has been rapidly evolving from week to week,” said Justin Stiefel, CEO of Heritage Distilling Co. “We went from producing 16,000 gallons per month to 600,000 gallons per month overnight with just a few weeks to plan how we were going to bottle it and get it into the hands of businesses and consumers. Without hesitation, Ardagh Group responded to our need and identified solutions to support this historic initiative. We are tremendously grateful for their partnership.”

The hand sanitizer is packaged in the 750ml Inspiration Stelvin ECO Series® glass bottle, manufactured in the U.S. by Ardagh. This ECO Series bottle is developed and designed to maintain high-quality appeal while lessening the overall environmental impact by requiring less energy demand, transportation impact and CO2 emissions.

“Ardagh takes great pride in partnering with Heritage Distilling Co. to help supply the increased demand for hand sanitizer during this pandemic,” said John T Shaddox, chief commercial officer for Ardagh’s North American Glass business unit. “This unique initiative also helps support the American economy with products that are made in the U.S.”

Ardagh produces essential glass packaging for food and beverage brands of all sizes throughout the U.S. These products provide packaging as part of the critical supply chain for local and national communities during this pandemic.

Dorner

As the COVID-19 pandemic continued causing major disruptions throughout the packaging industry on levels never seen before, Dorner continued meeting these challenges head on by leveraging its expertise and expediting its conveyor systems to critical applications. Husco is one of those applications.

Waukesha, Wisconsin-based Husco, a privately-held company specializing in high performance hydraulic and electro-mechanical components, shifted part of its production to manufacturing N95 respirators to be used by healthcare professionals and first responders to help prevent the spread of infection or illness..

“It was a priority for us to help those on the front lines get the PPE they need do safely do their job,” said Brian Cull, director of advanced manufacturing engineering at Husco. “Being able to bring solutions that directly impact peoples’ lives is inspiring.”

For Husco to begin the manufacturing process, it needed a conveyor to move completed N95 respirators to a bagger for packaging. Working closely with Dorner and Crane Production Systems, a Waukesha-based material handling distributor, Husco was able to specify and receive a 2200 Series conveyor on the same day.

“Husco deserves to be commended for their drive in supporting COVID-19 relief efforts through manufacturing N95 masks,” said Matt Jones, vice president of sales and aftermarket for Dorner. “All the organizations that are part of the MaskForce consortium really stepped up when the area needed them, and we were happy to play a small part in making their visions a reality.”

Dorner was able to supply Husco with a 10-ft long, 6 in. wide 2200 Series, a versatile platform engineered for numerous applications and industries, including accumulation, small-part transfers, inclines and declines, automated and manual assembly, packaging and industrial. As a final step prior to packaging, N95 respirators are applied with disinfectant. The conveyor moves the respirators underneath an air knife to ensure they’re dried and to perform a final cleaning. Masks then travel to a bagger, where they are packaged and ready for shipping.

“We have had a number of COVID-19 related inquires, and we’ve been very responsive to those customers who need a conveyor system right away…and in Husco’s case, that same day,” Jones said. “Everyone here at Dorner has worked well together to build and expedite orders for these time-sensitive requests.”

Cull said this project, along with all the organizations that comprise MaskForce, is a great example of what companies can accomplish when they collectively ban together.

“The project as a whole really demonstrated how the greater Milwaukee area came together, collaborated and put together solutions to get help to the field quickly,” he said. “These businesses all got together and said, ‘What do we need to do?’ It was really inspiring and rewarding to work in that environment.”

NiceLabel

NiceLabel announced it was offering free subscriptions of its cloud-based labeling solution and technical consulting services to organizations that have joined the fight against COVID-19. The company launched the non-commercial and non-profit-based initiative in order to help these organizations get much needed deliveries of medical equipment and supplies; respirators, disinfectants, masks or other critical supplies to those in need as quickly as possible.

Having the cloud-based labeling solution in place will enable these organizations to produce new labels quickly and rapidly add them to the packaging used on their new product lines to ensure that equipment and materials arrive on the front line without delay.

“We wanted to help eliminate any delays in the delivery of supplies by ensuring that labeling is never an obstacle to getting critical items to the front line as fast as possible,” said Ken Moir, NiceLabel vice president of marketing. “Our multi-tenant cloud platform allows us from a remote location to get labeling anywhere around the world – and to do it ultra-fast.”

Pharmaworks

Pharmaworks, a ProMach product brand specializing in pharmaceutical blister packaging machinery, has been leveraging its capabilities to produce and donate face shields to help meet the needs of healthcare professionals and first responders. In May, Pharmaworks announced it was asking the manufacturing community for PETG or PVC packaging material donations so they can help even more people.

“At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw the urgent need to connect with companies who have these hard-to-find materials in storage to supply essential workers who desperately need personal protective equipment,” said Peter Buczynsky, vice president and general manager of Pharmaworks. “We’re able to use our resources – our thermoformers for blister packs, our talent for innovation and adaptation, our hardworking team, our industry relationships – to protect people on the front lines across the nation.”

The face shields combine an injection-molded rigid frame and a die-cut front shield, which are simply snapped together by the recipient and can be easily cleaned and re-used. The design was developed in collaboration with iQuest, Inc. and healthcare professions in accordance with CDC recommendations. Verified by test labs, the face shields are ANSI Z87.1-2015 certified.

“In addition to making face shields here in house, we are able to ship die and hole punches to customers who already own Pharmaworks thermoforming machines or systems we’ve upgraded, so they can produce face shields in their own facilities. We’ve also made our face shield design available open-source for others to use,” said Buczynsky. “Everyone is working together to make this project happen – the Pharmaworks team, our parent-company ProMach, our partners and customers, material suppliers, the maker community and many others.”

R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company

As states around the country begin to reopen businesses and public places, R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company (RRD) announced that it had shifted some of the production at its packaging facilities in Greensboro, N.C. and Reynosa, Mexico to create face shields for single-users to protect businesses and communities across the country.

“A point of pride at RRD is our ability to be nimble and shift operations to address the changing needs of our clients,” said John Pecaric, president, RRD business services. “As businesses begin to ramp up, their number one need is to keep employees and customers safe. RRD has been able to address that need by converting some of our existing packaging equipment to produce face shields for companies seeking to protect their essential workers.”

RRD’s face shields are intended to be used as a standalone personal-use face shield, for either a single user or single use.  The shields, which cover the entire facial area, can be custom printed with branding and messaging.

Fiber Shield

Over forty packaging firms from twenty countries came together to create an organization called “Fiber Shield” to create single-use, disposable face shields in response to COVID-19 and the global shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for medical professionals.

Packaging producers and supply chain partners from around the world pooled their collective resources and expertise to develop, in record time, face shield designs that could be produced on existing packaging equipment with readily available materials.

Two packaging companies, Pawi from Switzerland and Zumbiel Packaging from the U.S., launched this initiative in March and, by mid-April, had already been joined by over forty packaging firms from twenty countries who had committed to produce protective paperboard face shields.

Every participating company was committing to donate at least 100,000 shields, but that was only the start.  Pawi, Zumbiel Packaging and Pulver Packaging (Chicago, USA) committed to donating over 700,000 shields to medical providers in Europe and North America who were at the epicenter of the pandemic.