A family-owned manufacturing company in Worthington, Minn., has shifted operations to help keep caregivers safe in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We got our start over 50 years ago making twist ties for the baking industry,” said Bedford Industries President Jay Milbrandt.
Fifty years later, Bedford Industries has become a world leader in “bendable components”… but it’s no stranger to the medical world.
“One of the things that twist-tie manufacturing has led us into is making the nose wire for the medical face masks your providers are probably using,” Milbrandt said.
Milbrandt realized that once the pandemic became a critical concern, his team could help.
“When we saw some hospitals out East making face masks and shields from office supplies, I thought, you know, we could modify our ElastiTag production lines and a few of our other processes here and make something that would work like that and make it in large, fast scale,” he said.
Introducing the ElastiShield
In just one day, the Bedford Industries team developed a prototype.
“This is a clear plastic shield. It’s easy to put on and is intended to protect against splatters, coughs — a physical barrier to conserve those N95 respirators,” Milbrandt said.
It’s a game-changing product that hits close to home for Milbrandt, quite literally.
“My wife is a physician assistant in the Sanford Health system here in Worthington. It’s personal to us. She was instrumental, and the team here at the clinic was instrumental, in getting us some early testing and feedback on it,” Milbrandt said.
Some might call it simple ingenuity, while Sanford Health’s Dean Weber, vice president of supply chain, calls it fate.
“This is a scenario that may have fallen in our lap. We have a partner in Bedford Industries, and we feel good about that,” Weber said.
Weber’s top priority at Sanford is to make sure all providers are safe and able to continue caring for patients with the supplies they need.
“Having someone in our local footprint providing us with personal protective equipment in which we don’t have to transport it from China … talk about 10- to 12-day lead times, ocean carriage, international air shipments. Worthington, Minnesota is right down the road,” he said. “Word we got from the clinicians is that these work better than the shields we have today.”
They’re not wasting any time
“We’ll be able to manufacture 10 million of these shields based on the materials we’ve purchased so far,” Milbrandt said.
Their goal is to make 100,000 shields per day. To do that, it’s all hands on deck for the 400-member team.
“Sanford is our local health system. That’s where we all doctor and where we all go for anything. We’re excited to be a part of helping our regional health system get some tools that can maybe make a difference in the fight against COVID-19. We’re all in this together, and we want to be on the ground floor with you.”
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