The need for more medical textile products, such as face masks and hospital gowns, has been well publicized since the exponential growth of the COVID-19 pandemic. But equally important is a means to get the materials required to make the products, a means of transportation to move materials and end products and getting the final product where it is most needed.
These are challenging for facilities that already make these products; for newcomers who have stepped up to make them for the first time, this is an even more daunting challenge. B2B discussion forums have been actively sharing contacts and information, which is helping, but there’s a bigger issue, as Doug Reed, president of Fasnap Corp., points out.
Reed says that he has been petitioning CISA (Dept. of Homeland Security) for two weeks to include the textiles industry as Critical Manufacturing or a Critical Industry. As Reed points out, nearly all the medical essential products require textiles, especially spunbond nonwoven materials. But he emphasizes that the supply chain is choked at the source, “unless the textiles Industry is deemed critical.”
“The industry is responding,” he says, “Even those of us who might be considered small business. … I’ve got companies that can quickly setup for die or laser cutting, sewing and/or ultrasonic bonding,” Reed says. “While latex-free products are preferred, at this point, businesses are settling for products with latex. … Talking with some of our suppliers, their elastic production lines are currently down because they’re currently deemed non-essential employees. DPA would be helpful.”
Specifications that are unique or unusual also cause glitches in the supply chain, Reed says. “Engineers have designed their items for specific fastening solutions rather than a range of product. Face shields were designed for 5/8″ hook and loop, one of the least common products used throughout industry, 1″ hook and loop is vastly more common. We have sources in the supply chain, but production times and logistics play a crucial role.”
IFAI and other U.S. textile/nonwoven associations have urged the U.S. government to deem manufacturing facilities “essential.” In a joint statement issued March 19, IFAI, NCTO and the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (INDA) said, “We are asking the administration and state and local authorities to provide greater certainty and clarity for our companies and employees and ask for a clear exclusion of our manufacturing operations from ‘Shelter in Place’ orders as the textile and nonwoven products that we make in the U.S. play an essential role in mitigating the shortages of critical supplies. Such a designation will help us avoid disruptions of vital goods and services during this challenging time.