By Sonia Yooshing
Since the global pandemic started, many shops have had to shut down business, some even permanently. Fortunately, some companies were able to shift gears to develop and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies to aid in the response to COVID-19. From producing social distancing graphics to manufacturing protective face shields, hand sanitizer, and garments for frontline workers, several sign shops have retooled their manufacturing facilities to provide critical protective equipment for medical workers amid looming supply shortages and help in the fight against the virus.
Sign Media Canada recently spoke with Kenneth Tschernow, owner of North Design Build in Hamilton, Ont., to learn more how the shop was able to pivot its business and supply essential items to ease the burden during these unprecedented times.
Sign Media Canada (SMC): What motivated you and the staff to produce PPE, social distancing graphics, and plexiglass barriers?
Kenneth Tschernow (KT): During the COVID-19 economic shutdown, we evaluated whether or not we were an essential business. When the Government of Canada sent out a call to action requesting manufacturers to help combat the pandemic, we knew right away this was something we could assist with. With protective equipment in such short supply, we realized PPE and other infection-prevention products were really the only items we should be producing at the time.
We used our Multicam Apex1R computer numerical control (CNC) router to prototype a high-performance face shield for frontline workers. Through a fundraising campaign, we were able to raise more than $16,000, which allowed us to donate thousands of face shields to workers in need of proper protection.
SMC: What type of PPE is the shop producing? Do you install these on-site?
KT: The shop is currently manufacturing a wide range of products, including polycarbonate (a lightweight, high-performance plastic) face shields, plexiglass barriers, sneeze guards, and social distancing graphics. We also install everything we produce across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).
SMC: What was the process for making PPE?
KT: Diving into the medical industry was a bit of a learning curve. I called some friends who are involved with surgical sales and they helped get North Medical Group, a division of North Design Build, off the ground. Having a sales team in the medical industry allowed us to get our face shields directly into the hands of doctors, nurses, and several health care professionals across the province. We applied for and received a medical-device establishment licence within two weeks. This has enabled us to manufacture and distribute these products across the country. We now plan on developing and manufacturing even more types of PPE.