Whereas a few weeks ago master craftsmen at Pac Team Group’s Chicago production center were busy working on high-end restaurant interiors and luxury jewelry showcases, this 70-year-old company has found itself in unchartered territory. With cutting-edge equipment and a group of dedicated employees who were at risk of losing their jobs, the organization quickly repurposed the factory to produce protective face shields for the medical community leading the coronavirus (COVID-19) response. What was a bleak situation became a uniting effort of hope.
“The day the stay at home order was put in place in Illinois, it seemed like I would have no other option but to furlough my amazing team, says Pac Team Group President and Co-owner Eric Zuckerman. “It’s hard to be a manufacturer if you can’t manufacture. I started thinking of what machinery we have and how we could help support the medical community facing a PPE shortage while allowing my colleagues in Chicago to keep working. When I saw that face shields were desperately needed, I saw a path and knew we could do that well.”
By the next morning, the team began researching and engineering face shields and by the following day they had done multiple prototypes. Within less than a week they had bulk materials coming in, applied for ANSI z87.1 testing and certification and began engaging with city and state governments about distributing the shields.
“When Eric said Pac Team would be producing face shields, I was so proud to be helping others during this time and also relieved that I could keep working,” says carpenter Juan Baez.
Currently, the facility is set up to produce 5,000 shields per week, but can easily expand to 10,000 per week if needed.
“I am very hopeful,” says Zuckerman. “If we can supply 5,000 per week, we can cover our operation’s cost. Everybody on the shop floor can keep working full-time and our country will have another reliable domestic source producing personal protective equipment. It is a win, win.”
In addition to the Chicago facility, Pac Team Group has been converting its operations in Europe and Asia to secure additional personal protective equipment (PPE) including N95 masks, disposable masks, face shields, goggles, gloves, and gowns. The company has both owned and partner manufacturing facilities globally, as well as a full sourcing and quality control operation. Pac Team’s comprehensive logistics operation enables the coordination for the transport of goods by any method to any location throughout the world. They have begun repurposing their manufacturing facility in China to produce over 30,000 face shields per week. The company has also been actively identifying and investigating FDA registered manufacturers within these regions and coordinating their production and import of essential medical supplies to the United States and Europe.
“There are many companies offering to source and supply PPE to institutions in need,” says Antonio Schiano Lomoriello, VVP of project development for Pac Team’s USA operation. “However, they do not have the resources on the ground in China to validate that they can supply what they are promising. As a result, states and healthcare facilities are not getting what they were expecting. We are fortunate that we have a sizable sourcing and quality control operation there that can not only find sources, but investigate their integrity, and physically inspect the product before exporting it. This is what we do, we have been doing it for decades and we do it extremely well. We just hope that institutions will utilize us as we are offering a real solution for responsible sourcing, not just an empty promise of sources for PPE.”