DAYTON – When COVID-19 strained the supply of isolation gowns needed in hospitals during the pandemic, a local partnership broke through with a solution.
Premier Health; FastLane, the manufacturing extension partnership for West Central Ohio, housed within the University of Dayton Research Institute; and Industry Products Company, of Piqua, a manufacturer of automotive cargo and trunk systems, acoustic and water shield solutions and protective in-transit materials; are collaborating to solve for the potential shortage of personal protective equipment and to meet the challenge of keeping health care workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The collaborative effort is one of several Ohio initiatives to bring much needed PPE to the state’s health care industry under the recently formed Ohio Manufacturing Alliance to Fight COVID-19.
“Within days an alternative material was identified, prototypes were designed and approved, and a manufacturer began the process of retooling its production line,” said Lainie Dean, system vice president, strategy and business development, Premier Health. “Premier Health is proud to rally local resources to make isolation gowns to solve its critical need.”
Premier Health turned to FastLane for assistance in solving a critical shortage of isolation gowns, having recently worked with FastLane on the design of face shields. The collaboration offered a local solution after COVID-19 disrupted supply chains, delaying the arrival of shipments of isolation gowns.
FastLane worked quickly to identify substitute materials in ample supply and collaborated with materials experts within UDRI, who redesigned an existing gown and produced several prototypes for the clinical team at Premier Health to evaluate.
After several iterations using various materials, a final version emerged that is even a slight improvement to the current isolation gown in use. Simultaneously, FastLane was working to find a manufacturer who could and was willing to alter production lines to meet the urgent need.
“We are doing everything we can to help ensure the safety of the frontline health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” FastLane Director Phil 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.”
“We knew IPC could be part of the solution, and we were eager to do our part,” said Joe Blake, president of IPC. “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 health care workers, the frontline defense from this horrible virus.”
IPC is dedicating a significant portion of its 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 will be able to make 55,000 gowns within the next few weeks. A significant portion of its furloughed workforce is now back to work producing several thousand gowns a day.
“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.”