MIAMI VALLEY — When a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers arose during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Industry Products Company (IPC) of Piqua knew they could help.
IPC, which typically manufactures automotive parts like sound-absorbing panels, has been working since Easter weekend to create disposable isolation and PPE gowns for healthcare workers, and the company’s efforts came to fruition on Friday when it delivered its first shipment of gowns to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton.
“We’re just extremely proud and grateful we’re able to help out,” IPC President Joe Blake said on Friday.
Blake said he got involved through a partnership with FastLane, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) for West Central Ohio at the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI), and Premier Health. Blake said he knew he wanted to get involved in helping fill the PPE gaps and he originally considered making face masks, but when he got connected with FastLane and Premier Health, he found there was a critical need for disposable gowns.
“Gowns were a really limiting factor for us,” Lainie Dean, system vice president, Strategy and Business Development, Premier Health, said on Friday. “It’s an incredible story of the community connecting and helping one another figure out a problem and how to solve it.”
“The item we have not been able to reuse is gowns,” said Dr. Steven Burdette, medical director, Infection Control, Miami Valley Hospital. “We greatly appreciate and look forward to using (these).”
As IPC was previously on a break from making automotive parts due to many of their customers currently not manufacturing new vehicles, this partnership became a good fit for IPC and allowed IPC to bring between 50-60 of their employees back to work after they were previously furloughed.
“We knew we could help,” Blake said. “Our workforce really got into it over Easter weekend.”
Blake said they made new tools over Easter weekend to prepare for the change in their production lines, beginning production of prototypes the week after Easter.
“We had to set up an entirely new production line,” Blake said. His team is now making approximately 1,200 gowns per shift, for around 3,000 gowns a day.
IPC is also dedicating a significant portion of their material in stock to produce gowns for Premier Health and is working with FastLane to secure additional supplies. With the current stock of material, IPC plans to make 55,000 gowns within the next few weeks.
“This is only possible because of how easy this was,” Blake said, noting how the partnership with FastLane and Premier Health helped IPC get involved and quickly fill this need.
“Our work is all about solving problems fast,” said FastLane director Phil Ratermann. Ratermann said FastLane joined the response to find PPE for healthcare workers, seeking out designs and materials to fill the PPE shortage, as well as a manufacturer who was able to alter production lines to meet the urgent need. One of those places was IPC, and he said it was only two weeks after meeting Blake that IPC was beginning to produce prototypes for the gowns they are now making for healthcare workers.
“It’s an amazingly short amount of time to pull that off,” Ratermann said.
The collaborative effort is one of several Ohio initiatives to bring much needed PPE to the state’s healthcare industry under the recently formed Ohio Manufacturing Alliance to Fight COVID-19.
“We are doing everything we can to help ensure the safety of the front-line healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ratermann said. “We are working with manufacturers all over our region who have offered to help in this combined effort. FastLane was thrilled to find IPC in Piqua had both the material and the capabilities to make the gowns.”
“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.”