Novolex Converts Factory to Make PPE
LANCASTER – While hospitals across the nation are facing serious shortages of medical equipment – think ventilators, masks and gloves – one local company stepped up to help.
With a facility in Lancaster, Texas with 315 employees, Novolex™, an industry leading manufacturer of paper and plastic flexible packaging products, addressed this critical need by retrofitting its machines and supply chain logistics at four of its North American facilities. This retrofitting has enabled the company to sustainably mass produce PPE and deliver face shields and isolation gowns to the epicenters of the virus’s outbreak.
The facility in Lancaster is producing head gear for face shields. The head gear is made from machines that have traditionally been dedicated to making plastic plates and cutlery.
Novolex has been producing personal protective equipment (PPE) at scale since April 13. For three weeks prior the company spent countless hours retooling the lines to convert from food packaging to PPE.
“Despite the fact that our engineers are not co-located in the same plant, they have been able to overcome significant hurdles,” Novolex’s Senior Technology and Product Manager Galen Killam who helped oversee the entire operation.
Face Shields & Hospital Gowns
To date, Novolex has produced more than 25,000 face shields and 100,000 hospital gowns throughout its facilities overall.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic began, we were simply driven by the fact that we wanted to do the right thing and help out where we could,” Killam said. “We saw the need and the capability to support in the production of highly demanded face shields and hospital gowns that would in turn be useful for the COVID-19 response.”
Novolex had never produced PPE before, but unleashing the engineers’ minds and watching the collaboration across the network take place allowed for incredible results.
The company has also committed to making PPE for as long as there is a need.
“We’re enormously proud to have the backs of the healthcare professionals and first responders who have protected us and our loved ones through this entire crisis,” Killam said.
Beyond manufacturing, the company also created a system to transport materials and products between its facilities.
To Texas & Beyond
All the PPE produced is currently being shipped to New Hampshire, California, New York, Texas and Georgia to the epicenters of COVID-19’s outbreak.
“As international supply chains have stalled and the COVID-19 crisis escalated, we’ve seen a critical shortage in medical protective equipment in the U.S. When we found out about this need, it was a no brainer,” said Phil Rozenski, Novolex Vice President of Public Affairs. “Our facilities are already uniquely equipped to produce food-grade products, so we are thrilled to be able to jump in and use our know-how and engineering expertise to make protective equipment that can really help those on the front lines.”
The company facility has been in operation in Lancaster since 1985 but was acquired by Novolex in 2018.
“I am so proud to oversee a team of engineers that are not only forward-thinking, but also selfless and passionate about the work that they do,” concluded Adrianne Tipton, Head of Research and Development, Novolex. “When the decision was made to begin producing PPE in addition to the products we produce on a regular basis, our team knew the demand was going to be high and that the turnaround was going to be quick, but to no surprise, Novolex’s engineering team jumped in and immediately contributed to what we can do and never what we can’t do.”