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FastLane at University of Dayton Research Institute helps boost production of isolation gowns

When COVID-19 strained the supply of isolation gowns needed in hospitals during the pandemic, FastLane at UDRI was ready to take on the challenge.

For several weeks FastLane, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership for West Central Ohio, housed within the University of Dayton Research Institute’s Manufacturing Technology Solutions Accelerator office, had already been working to address the critical shortage of personal protective equipment for the region’s healthcare industry. Along with other Ohio MEPs, the FastLane team had been turning to area manufacturers to assess capabilities and source materials for face shields, masks, gloves and multiple other PPE, under the recently created Ohio Manufacturing Alliance to Fight COVID-19 (OMAFC) program. 

So when Premier Health reached out to FastLane with an urgent need for isolation gowns, the team was able to seamlessly refocus much of its effort to addressing that need. Team members Priscila McCarty, Mark McCormick and Alex Hoffman evaluated designs, materials, production methods, costs and local manufacturing capability, while working with Premier to assess its needs and solicit feedback on various designs.

After evaluating an existing gown, UDRI Structural Materials researcher Olivia Bowman and Power and Energy researcher Eric Lang designed and produced a number of prototypes, working with FastLane to ultimately select a viable design.

"We were pleased to learn from Premier that our final design was even a slight improvement to gowns currently being used," said FastLane director Phil Ratermann. 

Industry Products Company of Piqua, one of hundreds of manufacturers who registered to provide manufacturing support under the OMAFC, had the materials and capabilities to produce the gowns, and eagerly joined the effort, Ratermann said, adding that FastLane team members provided retooling support for IPC, which normally manufactures automotive cargo and trunk systems, acoustic and water shield solutions and protective in-transit materials for automobile manufacturers. 

IPC is now in the process of producing several thousand gowns per day, with a goal of 55,000 within the next few weeks. 

"We knew IPC could be part of the solution and we were eager to do our part," said president Joe Blake. "At IPC, our work begins with an individual challenge and ends with the development of a customized solution for our customers. We are very proud of the work our people have done to help protect our healthcare workers, the frontline defense, from this horrible virus."

FastLane's team of business advisors work to provide solutions to challenges that can inhibit the success and growth of Ohio manufacturers. Under the OMAFC effort, the FastLane team has been proud to involve manufacturers as part of the solution in the fight against the pandemic. The entire effort, from initial design to retooling to start of production, happened within one week, according to Ratermann.

"Our team has developed a reputation among our customers for doing what it takes to support their needs. But they really went above and beyond on this project, working long days and providing exceptional service to make this all happen so quickly," he said.

Lainie Dean, system vice president, strategy and business development for Premier Health concurs.

"Combining FastLane's ability to quickly coordinate the design and prototype production, the clinical expertise at Premier Health, and the manufacturing ingenuity at IPC, has resulted in an incredible success," Dean said. "Innovation is alive and well within the Dayton community. These three organizations have set an example on speed, collaboration, and out-of-the-box thinking that will continue to remind us that Dayton can do anything."


News and Communications Staff