G-Form’s Rhode Island factory has transitioned from making protective padding for baseball and other sports straight into producing several hundred thousand face shields weekly for healthcare workers.
The two-week effort by the company’s R&D and factory operations teams to make the transition included determining the best raw materials to use and the process for in-factory creation. Now that G-Form’s 25-plus factory workers in North Smithfield, Rhode Island, have made the switch to produce personal protection equipment, Rob Kelley, vice president of global marketing, expects them to ramp up to full production soon.
“We are committed to making these as long as the healthcare community is in need of them,” he says. “None of us can really predict when the other side of the curve happens, but we have confidence the healthcare system will also need a supply to be better prepared and build up a safety stock.”
The Z87 D3 PPE face shields were a natural fit for G-Form, makers of a protective padding popular in baseball and mountain biking that starts soft but hardens on impact. Kelley says the factory teams knows plenty about assembling product, cutting materials and piecing things together. With G-Form’s factories in China and the Dominican Republic too far removed to be able to quickly help the situation in the United States and other industries stepping up to produce hand sanitizer and other materials, G-Form decided face shields was something it could turn to quickly while fitting within the team’s wheelhouse. It just took research to find the correct raw materials, which they are now sourcing anew, everything from anti-fog polycarbonate shields to specific elastic, attaching mechanisms and foam.
“We needed to look at the needs of PPE that we could make in our own factory and get them out as quickly as possible,” Kelley says. “The face shield was the best option. It is heartwarming to see the number of companies taking similar action to G-Form. We truly are all in this together.”
Once G-Form was able to figure out the manufacturing cadence and required training for employees, it has been able to increase production and max out the facility. In fact, G-Form is looking to hire new employees and create a second shift of workers crafting the shields.
“With team sports essentially being frozen and even mountain biking limited, we were in a situation where we were looking at our factory operation and we may have had to furlough employees and temporarily shut it down,” Kelley says. “Part of the driving force (of producing the shields) is to not only help healthcare workers and protect them, but also keep associates employed.” G-Form is selling the majority of its shields into the healthcare distribution market and also donating a portion.
“The demand is coming from all over the country,” Kelley says. “We are just trying to make them as fast as we can.” G-Form has now moved from creating PPE for baseball players to doing so for frontline healthcare providers.
Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.