13 Apr, Tuesday
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Utah Business

Outdoor companies partner to manufacture PPE

As the current pandemic continues to unfold, it is natural for panic to set in. However, it’s important to recognize that in addition to the somber reality, there have been tremendous acts of bravery from everyday citizens.

 From volunteers sewing face masks for the elderly to children making thank-you cards for healthcare workers on the frontline, we are reminded of the power of collaboration when the greater good is kept in mind. On a local scale, there are many businesses in the Salt Lake valley actively manufacturing the gear designed to protect medical personnel. 

Three local outdoor companies, Petzl, GoalZero, DPS Skis, and Eastman Machine Company are working around the clock in partnership with a fourth company based in New York to manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE) for the Utah Department of Health.

The collaboration started after Alex Adema, CEO of custom ski company DPS skis, was inspired by the story of a company that had converted their operations to manufacture PPE for healthcare workers. Adema, whose company uses a textile cutting machine to cut their ski base material, wondered whether the machine could be used to cut material for PPE.

 “Just hearing so much about N95 masks…I wondered if we could maybe cut that fabric and help in the supply chain if there was a need,” says Adema. 

Bringing an industry together 

After discussions with DPS engineers, they discovered that the scrap plastic yielded from their production process could be used to make reusable face shield. As soon as they had the idea, Adema contacted other executives from within the industry to see if anyone else was interested in contributing to the project.

 Almost immediately, Tom Adams, COO of Petzl, and Bill Harmon, general manager of GoalZero, knew they had to help and were enthusiastic about the unique project. 

Initially, Adams wasn’t sure how Petzl could contribute to the project until one night he had an epiphany – the comfortable headbands used for their headlamps would work perfectly for a face shield. Additionally, one of DPS’s suppliers, Eastman Machine Company, was happy to provide blades and a cutting surface for the face shields.

 “Our machines are very adaptable so converting to cut face shields was a pretty simple operation.” says Robert Stevenson, CEO of Eastman. 

From there, it was all hands-on deck. With combined resources, the companies are currently making 80,000 shields for the state’s DOH workers. This collaboration is a prime example of what can be accomplished with the greater good in mind. 

“Efforts like this have really brought our industry together,” says Harmon. “I think what’s unique about this particular opportunity is that our own friends, industry, partners, and companies are being hurt [by the pandemic]. We’re talking about employees that live in our community. It brought the problem a little bit closer to us.”

 For Adams, the existing comradery within the industry made the decision to help manufacture PPE an easy one. “I was fortunate enough to work for the Governor and run the office of recreation for the state of Utah.” says Adams. “We had a really successful office, but it was only successful because we had amazing partners, like Bill and Alex. We were all trying to do good things together, learn from each other, and come up with some great solutions. This was just an extension of that.”