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When America’s Healthcare Providers Asked for Help, Global Shop Solutions Customers Answered the Call

manufacturing facemasks for COVID-19

When the COVID-19 virus began taking lives and shutting down businesses across the U.S., John Schwanke, co-owner of Lakeview Industries, wanted to do two things – help those in desperate need of personal protective equipment (PPE) and keep his employees working. His solution? Start producing millions of a product his manufacturing company had never made before.

“Every day on the news I kept hearing that PPEs were in short supply,” says Schwanke. “A physician friend of mine dropped off a plastic face shield at the plant, and it looked like something we could make with no problem.”

This type of mask Lakeview began making has a simple design that consists of a plastic sheet to protect the face and an elastic strap to hold it in place. The elastic allows for a “one size fits all” mask that is easy to put on and wear. Even though assembled by hand, the masks can be mass produced in large numbers fairly quickly.

The face shields can only be used once, but they are effective in preventing contact with the virus. If a patient with the virus coughs or sneezes, the shield keeps the contaminated droplets from getting onto the face of the person attending to patient. The face shield also prolongs the life of the more effective N95 masks. After meeting with engineers and the production manager, Schwanke determined Lakeview could produce the mask in large quantities.

“We took a bit of a risk because we had to buy a lot of materials before we had any orders. Even so, it was an easy decision to make because hospitals and first responders were desperate for the masks. My thinking was ‘if we build them, we can help.’”

John Schwanke, Co-Owner of Lakeview Industries

Schwanke’s thinking turned out to be right on the mark. Within days of setting up the production line, Lakeview had produced and donated 40,000 single-use face masks to the state of Minnesota. Shortly thereafter, Schwanke’s phone began ringing off the hook with orders from law enforcement and trauma centers all over the U.S.

As workers gained experience assembling the masks, production jumped to 100,000 and then 250,000 a day, quickly surpassing the initial estimate of 500,000 masks. Schwanke now expects to ship at least 5 million, or possibly more.

“It feels good to know Lakeview is helping people on the front lines get the protection they need, but our employees deserve all the credit,” says Schwanke. “They’re taking a risk by coming to work, yet they’re proud to be helping doctors, nurses and first responders fight this deadly virus. Our team is doing a phenomenal job of turning out these handmade masks as quickly as possible.”

This is just one of our great customers who have risen to meet the challenge. Discover more stories in this multi-part series.

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