UPDATED: The woodworking companies who now make healthcare products

Photo By Kaas Tailored

The world continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic. We've reported on countless closures, layoffs, production curtailments, and other disruptions.

But the woodworking industry has also sprung into action - and many companies have transitioned to manufacturing urgently needed healthcare products. 

Here's a look at some of those companies:

T3 Expo, a general service contractor specializing in trade show and corporate event displays, used their Striebig Control to cut the plastic partitions and signs used to create the 500-room temporary hospital at the Jacob Javitz Center in New York City.

As of April 6, Norwalk Furniture in Ohio has been making very different products from what it is used to: Protective face masks and medical gowns for hospital workers. Production began after the company received its designation for “Essential Business Status” from Huron County (Ohio). The designation allows Norwalk to redirect its production efforts and provides for a group of cutters, sewers and patternmakers to voluntarily return to work after being furloughed under the state’s stay-at-home mandate.

Timberlane has shifted from making window shutters to shields to help medical professionals on the front lines with PPE equipment. They are providing these at cost to help those in the medical industry and other essential workers who are serving on the front lines during the coronavirus pandemic.

HBF and other HNI Corp. companies are navigating the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic, already infecting more than 2 million people worldwide and creating unprecedented disruption. To support the local population and the local health care providers on the front lines, they are producing and donating personal protective equipment to first responders, healthcare systems, and hospitals. HNI is using its factories in Iowa, New York, as well as its HBF Hickory, North Carolina, location to meet local needs.

Component supplier HS Manufacturing, a division of Hickory Springs, has made an emergency capital investment in equipment ot produce protective facemasks and medical gowns. Most of the initial supply will go toward regional medical providers in the Southeastern U.S.

Texas-based upholstered furniture maker Mayo Manufacturing has produced thousands of disposable and reusable masks and protective gowns for first responders and the public. In four days, the company made 9,000 reusable masks, 900 gowns, and hundreds of thousands of disposable masks.

Employees Gator Millworks are using their commercial casework skills to manufacture face shields for healthcare workers across the country. The Denham Springs, Louisiana-based company told WAFB9 on April 6 that it hopes to have the process fully CNC automated by the end of the week, with the capability to produce 1,000 shields per day. Gator President Chad Foster was honored in 2018 as a Wood Industry 40 Under 40, and the company recognized in the WOOD 100: Strategies for Success.

Hillcrest Cabinets is using its 3D printer to make face shields. The North Bay, Ontario company is donating the shields to area healthcare workers.

Employees at Kindel are using their cutting and sewing capabilities to produce standard sewn surgical mask to wear over the N-95 mask to prolong the usefulness of respirator masks. Under the direction of Chairman Jim Fisher, the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based furniture manufacturer purchased additional sewing machines and materials, found a pattern that was acceptable to the industry, and got to work; people also brought in their personal machines to aid the effort. "We are adhering to the CDC guidelines and are maintaining a safe distance, and are continually conscientious of the health and safety of our workers," the company said.

Newton, North Carolina-based McCreary Modern has been producing Class II surgical quality masks and donating them to struggling non-profit healthcare facilities while the remainder of its upholstery furniture manufacturing operations are closed in accordance with the stay-at-home order. The furniture manufacturer has donated thousands of masks to date.

Phoenix-based Urban Plough Furniture has started building intubation boxes - inexpensive temporary protection devices for healthcare workers. The only supplies needed to build a box are plexiglass, masking tape, and some kind of acrylic adhesive.

Office furniture giant Steelcase is producing masks for use in clinical environments; facial shields for clinicians in direct contact with patients; and social screens, desktop and floor mounted, for screening and communicating with visitors at safe social distances. Fellow office furniture maker Herman Miller is allowing 30 percent of its workforce to return on a volunteer basis to make masks and mattress covers.

New Jersey-based commercial furniture maker Stylex Furniture is producing washable, protective masks for COVID-19 healthcare workers.

New Orleans-based GoodWood NOLA owner and 40 Under 40 honoree Michael Dalle Molle transitioned his 16,000-square-foot woodshop to face shield manufacturing. GoodWood's core business is designing and building mixed-media furniture for offices, restaurants, retail stores, and residential clients.

Minnesota-based Woodchuck USA is opening up to 50 percent of its production line to demands in the medical and personal protective equipment products. Woodchuck produces high-end custom wood products including personalized gifts and phone cases. Its manufacturing facility enables production upwards of 30,000 to 50,000 units of various products per day.

Cooper Enterprises, an Ohio-based contract manufacturer of commercial wood components, is now offering cut-to-size manufacturing services for cashier shields. Made of clear acrylic, cashier shields are a barrier between customers and store employees at checkout lanes and pharmacy counters.

Washington-based upholstered furniture maker Kaas Tailored has transformed its entire operation around a new product: Surgical masks.

Toast, a small Portland-based manufacturer of wood and leather goods for tech services, has begun making plastic personal protective face shields.

Ikea is working with several suppliers to produce masks for healthcare workers. It's also providing hand sanitizers, visors and single-use aprons.

Klaussner Home Furnishings is utilizing its fabric-cutting experience to produce face masks and other medical supplies.

While not making healthcare products themselves, wood machinery giant SCM says it will assist woodworking companies in switching their production applications to produce medical safety devices or other essential supplies to help mitigate supply interruptions related to COVID-19. SCM will provide priority application support such as programming, machining, and fixturing consultating. The company is also offering complimentary troubleshooting and service interventions if companies are experiencing downtime and need to be operational for their contributions to the COVID-19 relief efforts.
Canadian lean manufacturing expert and FDMC columnist Brad Cairns has switched all production at his Best Damn Doors factory to making anti-virus protective gear. “We have gone ALL-IN on this fight,” Cairns said in an email. “The entire plant is dedicated to making PPE Face Shields, and we have ramped up from the prototype phase to 5,000 units per day capacity in under a week. WE NEED TO BEAT THIS THING so we can all get back to work.”
We will continue to update this article.
Let us know if your company has transitioned any manufacturing.



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About the author
Robert Dalheim

Robert Dalheim is an editor at the Woodworking Network. Along with publishing online news articles, he writes feature stories for the FDMC print publication. He can be reached at [email protected].