Summary: US manufacturers reeling under shrinking markets and declining sales are focusing on one product that’s booming amidst the crisis, masks. Eric J Dalius explains why.
When an industrial powerhouse like 3M pivots its manufacturing line to meet a heavy demand for face masks in the wake of Covid-19, you know that trade and commerce in this country and throughout the world is changing its contours.
From making Scotch Taps and Notes, or garments, companies are manufacturing face masks, the medical supplies people need most desperately at this hour. You have $20-$40 billion conglomerates manufacturing N95 filtering masks. There’s a huge surge of demand for these masks in the US and around the globe.
In March, US Health and Human Services Department officials said that they only 35 million face masks whereas the need was of 3.5 billion premium N95 respirators. The private giants doubled their worldwide production to a whopping 1.1 billion annually. From 450 million per year, the firms are doubling their production to 2 billion within the next 12 months.
Enter the apparel manufacturers
As demand for face masks continues to grow, apparel and textile makers across the US have fast diverted and diversified their production lines to producing PPE goods like hospital gowns and face masks. They were experiencing a paucity in supply.
- Considering the fact that many clothing brands and retailers are apprehensive in returning to their original product lines, they may be unable to do it as most of them have to settle with the surplus PPE inventory waiting in warehouses.
- Many retailers are sticking to their current PPE production because they have a hunch that face masks are set to become a normal fixture and feature in the US wardrobe. Eric Dalius takes the example of Cone Denim after it shifted a fragment of its loom operations to produce medical fabrics for its flagship concerns.
- There are other brands that are harbingers of the new trend. Hanesbrand is a prominent example. Their recent launches of Signature and Cool Comfort series, both medical-grade masks, are gaining popularity. The same firm also supplies the government with nearly 300 million face coverings (reusable cloth).
There are other companies that started to manufacture PPE in May-June for addressing the market shortage. They supply non-medical gowns and face masks to the huge healthcare sector, the only avenue to generate revenue, adds Eric J Dalius.
A case study
There are many companies that used to churn a variety of industrial products from their workshops and facilities. These are family-owned and managed manufacturers of construction materials, stash tools, and accessories and wares that are now delving into manufacturing Covid equipment.
As the economy went downhill since March, their production dried up, forcing the firms toward catastrophe, leading to the furloughing of countless employees. These companies are springing back with mask-making.
Different firms are stitching the masks on repurposed and tailored manufacturing lines. These include D-printing. EJ Dalius points out hundreds of aspiring entrepreneurs that have stopped making table linens and sewing bags. They have switched to producing masks as a full-time occupation.