Mohawk Industries and Fabric Sources International (FSI) are combining resources to address urgent medical supply needs at Hamilton Medical Center and Emory Healthcare in Atlanta during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Using fabric provided by FSI, Mohawk Home’s Dalton-based rug manufacturing facility is providing industrial sewing equipment for their skilled employees to produce vitally needed medical protective gear for doctors, nurses and other care providers.
“During the developing COVID-19 crisis, we came together as a team to look at our current capabilities and see if there was any way that we could help the medical groups in our communities,” Bart Hill, Mohawk senior vice president, product development and operations, said. “When the team at FSI reached out to Hamilton Medical Center to learn about their needs, they found out that Hamilton was in short supply of medical gowns worn by care providers. That’s when FSI asked us if we could combine our resources and skills to produce these items.”
Health care providers wear these gowns in non-surgical settings to prevent their clothing from being contaminated by patient body fluids. The gowns are worn when a patient’s symptoms are consistent with COVID-19 or other infectious diseases and contact precautions must be taken. The Mohawk Home team quickly developed a process for cutting the fabric pattern and sewing together the gown components.
“When we were made aware that our local hospital was out of these gowns, we were asked, ‘Do you think you can do this?’” Darlene Pasley, Mohawk sewing department manager, said. “Our quick answer was ‘Yes,’ even though we didn’t yet know how to do it and had never done anything like this before. We just knew we had to do what we could to help.”
Pasley explained how the team disassembled a medical isolation gown, measured it, copied the size, cut out a pattern by hand, and sewed it back together. Earl Nichols, Mohawk Home senior engineer, and the team broke down every step into a separate process for the team and set up a small assembly line in a day.
“I have family members that are in the medical field, and all of them were telling me the same thing we’re hearing on the news, that they were running low on supplies,” Jesus Naranjo, Mohawk cutting department manager, said. “So, I was ready to jump in immediately to try to help. We cut out the first design by hand with the intention of taking that shape and mass producing it on our equipment. We had never designed anything other than a rug on our equipment before, but using our software and going through several revisions, we created an approved design.”
The sewing team adapted quickly to the new product and material. Production has now expanded during the past two weeks from a handful of gowns to 1,200 per day, with plans to continue speeding up the process.
“I’m so happy that we’re able to help our doctors and nurses,” Wanda Rowe, Mohawk lead sample rug sewing machine operator, said. “I think we sometimes take for granted that the supplies we need to do our jobs will always be there. The first gown was very tedious to put together, but when the rest of the gown sewing team worked together to each do their part, things came together like clockwork.”
About 1,000 of these medical gowns are being donated to Hamilton Medical Center, and the groups have also begun supplying gowns to Emory’s hospital system.
“Amazing things can happen when the community and local businesses come together to solve real-world community challenges,” Chris Simuro, president of FSI, said. “I could not be prouder of the team here at Fabric Sources International for its efforts to step up and help find ways to supply the medical personal protective equipment (PPE) our community hospitals need as they battle every day to care for our community. Our team has been working day and night for the past 10 days to create solutions the medical community desperately needs, and they all would say they feel blessed to have such a unique opportunity to step up and help our community in such a direct way.”
As much as possible, the teams plan to expand production to meet the needs of other area hospitals facing supply shortages.
“I’m really proud to work for a company like Mohawk that immediately wanted to help out the community,” Nichols said. “In a matter of two days, we were able to engineer, create and sort out the supply chain to manufacture these much-needed supplies for the hospitals. We just wanted to help in any way we could.”
The group has also begun the process of creating plastic face shields, another item needed by health care providers for protection when they treat patients. The face shield design has been approved by the hospitals, and the group is refining its manufacturing process to determine its capacity.
“Our team here has been so enthusiastic and helpful with taking on this challenge of learning to manufacture different items in such a short amount of time,” Hill said. “Everyone has the attitude that we’re all in this together with our teams and our community, and they want to do whatever they can to help. We’re very proud of these team members and their eagerness to use their skills to support our medical professionals.”
Mohawk has a history of providing support in times of need. During World War II, the company converted woven carpet looms to produce more than 5 million blankets for use by U.S. soldiers on the European and Pacific fronts. Mohawk also manufactured millions of square yards of cotton canvas cloth that the military used for tents, sandbags, tarpaulins, duffle bags and more.
Along with manufacturing surgical gowns and plastic face shields, the Mohawk team is working to identify sources for certified, protective face masks for AdventHealth to help ensure that the providers in its Calhoun and Chatsworth hospitals have the protective gear they need to keep themselves and others safe. Mohawk is offering its logistical and supply chain resources and expertise to help with the sourcing of these items.
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