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UDRI FastLane manufacturing extension partnership coordinates PPE production by area manufacturers

A local effort coordinated by FastLane, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) for West Central Ohio housed within the University of Dayton Research Institute, is responding to the challenge of keeping Ohio's healthcare workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. FastLane is a member of the Ohio Manufacturing Alliance to Fight COVID-19 (OMAFC), which will engage Ohio manufacturers to produce desperately needed personal protective equipment (PPE).

In an initial effort under the movement, four Ohio companies that produce tools and molds, including Trifecta Tool and Engineering in Kettering, are making molds for face shields, and four additional companies, including Evenflo in Piqua, will begin mass production of the face shields next week with a goal of producing 650,000 shields across Ohio within four weeks. 

The OMAFC — formed last week and comprising the Ohio Manufacturers' Association (OMA), Ohio Hospital Association (OHA), Ohio Manufacturing Extension Program (Ohio MEP), nursing homes and JobsOhio — put out a call to manufacturers for support in producing PPE for healthcare workers, and within a week, more than 1,400 manufacturers across the state stepped up to help, said FastLane director Phil Ratermann. Many of the manufacturers are in the Dayton region. 

With materials provided by the state of Ohio, production of these face shields will be the first PPE to be produced under the allied effort. The goal is to also secure additional materials and engage more manufacturers in the production of isolation gowns and masks, N95 respirators, gloves, hand sanitizer and swabs, according to Ratermann. 

"Our manufacturers have been busy, rapidly doing the hard work required to transform production lines, design products and source materials from supply chains to make the PPE that is critical to keeping our front line workers safe. The FastLane team has supported this effort by finding material suppliers and assisting with product design" he said. "The challenges associated with accomplishing high-volume production in a few days are daunting, but the major issue has been in the sourcing of raw materials, finding acceptable alternatives and obtaining large quantities of the materials quickly." 

FastLane team members communicated with local hospitals to learn what their most pressing PPE needs would be, then secured sample prototypes of substitute products for approval. 

"Our guidance is coming from all three local hospital networks," Ratermann said. "Premier Health provided essential feedback to move production forward. We are also working with Kettering Health Network and Dayton Children's." 

Manufacturers interested in participating in the PPE effort can self-nominate at the Ohio Manufacturing Alliance COVID-19 website, repurposingproject.com.


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