EDGERTON — A southwest Minnesota company has responded to the shortage of medical personal protective equipment (PPE) by designing and mass-producing new face shields and medical gowns.
Fey Industries Inc. usually makes promotional advertising products, said president Mike Fey. When the company decided to be part of the coronavirus solution, it took only one workday to come up with prototypes for its PPE items, Fey said. This efficiency speaks to the spirit of innovation that Fey Industries seeks to embody.
Both the gowns and the face shields are designed to be reusable. The protective gowns cover the front of the body from collarbone to wrist and mid-calf, and close with a tie in the back. N95 face masks are essential to protect the wearer from COVID-19, and Fey Industries face shields fit over masks to make them last longer.
The Edgerton-based company’s facility is equipped for radio frequency heat sealing, thermoforming, injection molding and sonic welding, so the production lines were retrofitted and tooled up to accommodate assembly of medical protective isolation gowns and Preserve-A-Mask face shields.
Staffing was also adjusted for production needs. Fey explained that the company is now operating on 12-hour shifts using four different teams: Monday/Tuesday/Saturday morning and night shifts, and Wednesday/Thursday/Friday morning and night shifts. Employees are working longer hours than usual, but morale is high.
“Even after 12 hours, there’s still energy there,” Fey said of the line workers.
Fey sees this new process as a blessing for the company. As nationwide demand for PPE increases, Fey Industries has been able to re-hire former employees who were previously laid off.
“I’d much rather be in the position we’re in now where we’re needing to increase production,” Fey said. “I’m so thankful for how the Lord has provided.”
In a matter of days, Fey Industries went from not making PPE at all to churning out tens of thousands of Preserve-A-Masks for nationwide distribution.
“We’re actually refining the process already,” Fey noted.
The company is tweaking its PPE designs based on feedback from medical professionals. For example, the first medical gowns Fey Industries made were heavy-duty, and engineers are redesigning them to be more comfortable to wear for long hours.
“It’s been super special for us” to undertake such a drastic production shift, Fey said. He looks forward to this era of Fey Industries history becoming “part of company lore” as current employees reflect on today’s experiences.