Specialty Fabrics Review March 2021 - 32

OVID-19 made an abrupt entrance in 2020, catching almost everyone off
guard. It quickly became clear that waiting it out wasn't an option for most
businesses. Many pivoted, looked for opportunities and took calculated risks
to keep their employees working and the bottom line healthy during what
has proved to be a challenging, unpredictable and, in some cases, rewarding time.

A restaurant worked with 24/7
Events to create an architectural
tent with a sidewall that allows for
safe outdoor dining and weather
protection. Photo: 24/7 Events.

30 SPECIALTY FABRICS REVIEW / March 2021

MASS MASKS FAST
" It didn't take long for us to be impacted because shows started canceling left and
right, " says Heidi Katherine, senior vice president global design and development
at Moss Inc., a Franklin Park, Ill.-based manufacturer of tensioned fabric structures
and graphic displays for trade shows and events, retail stores and corporate offices.
Initially, the company kept its sewers busy by hand-sewing face masks for
employees and customers who couldn't find them elsewhere. High-quality masks
were in short supply, and demand was exploding, creating a market opportunity,
at least for the immediate future. But time was of the essence, and Katherine knew
hand-sewing wasn't going to cut it. The company needed a machine, processes,
and supply chains that didn't exist. She was undaunted. " Our expertise is solving
problems and making crazy ideas manufacturable. If we could figure out how to
mount an antique wagon on a wall for Kraft, I knew we could figure out how to
mass-produce masks, " Katherine says.
Moss international affiliates proved critical. The executive team worked with
its counterparts in Germany and engineers at the Fraunhofer Institute to design
and build a machine that would produce a high volume of consistent-quality
surgical masks at a reasonable cost.
Moss's purchasing team worked with its global network of contacts
to navigate unfamiliar supply chains for hard-to-procure materials such as
spunbond polypropylene nonwoven fabrics. " We were competing with big
players like 3M and Honeywell for these materials and had to convince the
suppliers that we were legitimate, " Katherine explains.
All told, it took three months for the company to go from hand-sewing
masks to mass-producing 750,000 facemasks per week in its Illinois plant-
an unprecedented time frame.
Two employees from Germany were trained in the requirements for CE mark
quality management. They became experts on the new machine and material
handling procedures such as keeping items sterile, a new area of expertise
necessary to handle personal protective equipment (PPE), and trained the U.S.
team via recurring virtual meetings once the equipment arrived in Illinois.
Press releases and a refocused sales strategy to hospital purchasing organizations
helped get the word out. Sales were strong, benefiting from a bias toward local
suppliers. " U.S companies had a higher level of trust purchasing masks and other
protective equipment from a domestic manufacturer, " Katherine notes.
Additional obstacles came with understanding emergency use authorization
criteria and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) medical device requirements
for surgical-grade masks and face shields.



Specialty Fabrics Review March 2021

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Specialty Fabrics Review March 2021 - 1
Specialty Fabrics Review March 2021 - 2
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