Responding to COVID-19
How the leaders made a difference.
When the COVID-19 pandemic swept across Canada and by March the country was shutdown, it was evident the healthcare system was short of personal protective equipment, ventilators and other safety supplies.
Manufacturers and other suppliers responded to a federal government call to action by shifting their operations to produce COVID-related supplies, which meant buying equipment, securing suppliers and quickly ramping up production.
Their innovations and agility resulted in a steady flow of safety supplies and the development of hospital equipment for frontline healthcare workers and consumers. To honour their efforts, Canadian Manufacturing, PLANT and EP&T magazines (Annex Business Media) hosted the Responding to COVID-19: Industry Leadership Honours, covering 10 categories. This virtual event was sponsored by Machines Italia and the Italian Trade Agency, Association for Manufacturing Excellence and Wello.
The large manufacturer and overall hero awards are covered in the Canadian Shield feature. The following looks at the eight other categories and their winners.
Some of the manufacturers who responded to the pandemic and excelled.
Molded Precision Components
PPE – Medium-sized manufacturer
The shortage of face shields for frontline workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic prompted auto parts manufacturer Molded Precision Components in Shanty Bay, Ont. to shift production to supply the protective gear.
When COVID-19 took hold in March, MPC designed, prototyped and made provisional patent applications in under five days. Within two weeks of completing the design, the first high quality injection moulded parts were in production.
The company had to expand its 28,000 square-foot plant facility by 45,000 square feet, helped along with funding from Next Generation Manufacturing Canada. And the federal, Ontario and Alberta governments stepped up with purchase orders to support the manufacturing investment, securing more than 27 million face shields for delivery by September.
The move to face shield production allowed MPC to maintain its team of 55 people, and 40 full-timers plus 65 student workers.
The company produced 450,000 Shield-Us per day and as of mid-July it had exceeded 5 million units. Partner Sterling Industries, a contract manufacturer of medical devices and components in Toronto, packaged and fulfilled the government orders as a priority.
It was a challenge to ramp up quickly. New moulding machines, associated robotics and handling equipment displaced the operational MPC warehouse on-site, which was moved to the local hockey arena. The fire hall, vacated for a new facility, was converted into a state of the art manufacturing hall.
MPC also partnered with two local moulders, placing five new machines in their facilities for additional production volume.
Orders for quantities of less than 100 pieces for non-medical applications are being fulfilled by Sentinel Supplies in Shanty Bay, run by high school and university students associated with MPC and Sterling.
The companies are also committed to donating at least 25,000 free shields to local businesses.
PPE – Small Manufacturer
Developing protective gear for the COVID-19 pandemic inspired i3 Biomedical in Mirabel, Que. It came up with a mask infused with its TrioMed technology that deactivates the COVID-19 virus and has supplied it to frontline workers and the general public.
i3 BioMedical has focused on novel antimicrobial products that prevent the spread of infection and disease. TrioMed Active Technology for general medical products actively fights microbes at the molecular level, deactivating and/or killing them. This novel molecule is grafted to medical materials and engineered to look like a target for microbes, then destroy them. Third-party laboratories have proved it eliminates infectious agents in minutes.
The University of Toronto’s Biohazard level 3 laboratories tested TrioMed incorporated in facemask material against Coronavirus-Sars-2, which causes COVID-19. After repeat testing, it was concluded the virus was completely deactivated.
Space Engine Systems
Assisting the sick
Space Engine Systems in Edmonton is an aerospace innovator developing the next generation of propulsion technologies for air travel and space.
Many of the technologies used in its light and reusable, multi-fuel DASS GN1 and GNX engines can be put to work in other industries.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and it was evident there weren’t enough ventilators to treat the sick, the company applied its expertise to the rapid development of a multi-patent machine. It did so in 21 days.
The DASS G1 ventilator was accepted for sale on the Africa Medical Supplies Platform and will be licensed in a variety of global markets.
This low-cost, richly featured instrument uses a blower rather than a bag and a touchscreen to deliver informative waveforms.
Following the success of the DASS G1 ventilator, SES began developing the DASS G2 intelligent ventilator. It can be operated remotely, reducing the risk of pathogen exposure. It comes with its own oxygen generator as well as a module that converts water to oxygen.
iLobby, a Toronto-based provider of visitor management technology joined the fight against COVID-19 with Fever Check. This technology uses a thermal camera to scan a visitor’s temperature.
The company consolidated COVID-19 screening into one system with an automated process that takes less than a minute to complete. Visitors are pre-screened prior to arrival and verified on-site when they sign in. Each person is automatically logged in to meet compliance requirements and provide audit-ready reports. If an incident occurs, the automated logs provide a digital trail for easy contact tracing.
iLobby quickly developed the key components for the system, such as Touchless Sign-In, and a contactless thermal camera to automate screening of elevated body temperatures.
The company’s community outreach includes the donation of iPads to long-term care facilities and hospitals to help families stay connected with loved ones.
The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) at the beginning of the pandemic presented a danger to frontline health workers and essential staff.
Bruce Power, the nuclear power provider and supplier of medical isotopes based in Tiverton, Ont., recognized the problem and quickly marshalled its resources to stream more than 2 million pieces of PPE to over 100 frontline organizations and Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
It collaborated with the University of Toronto and Promation on the Accelerated Ventilator Development Program, providing the automation integrator in Oakville, Ont. company with funding and expertise. Within 68 hours, the team produced a working ventilator prototype.
And Bruce Power launched an online portal called Strength in Numbers that provides local municipalities, businesses and community organizations with access to affordable PPE.
There’s more COVID-19 activity to report:
-A Go Fund Me page was created to collect donations ($120,000 from current and former employees) to support 38 local food banks.
-100 isolation beds were established for recovery centres in Grey-Bruce and a 50-bed pop-up isolation centre was set up to support of agricultural workers in Essex County.
-50,000 litres of hand sanitizer were donated to the community.
-$1 million was raised and contributed for urgent needs across Ontario.
-$400,000 from Bruce Power and the Power Workers’ Union was donated to University Health Network (UHN) to accelerate research.
-190,000 community updates were distributed in partnership featuring local health units to raise awareness and stop the spread of the virus.
-Collaborated with Public Health to co-host virtual town halls with the local Medical Officer of Health.
-Released the Grey-Bruce-Huron Strong App – a platform to provide public health updates, and to support local small businesses.
-Established the Retooling and Economic Recovery Council and associated initiatives.
Envision SQ Inc.
Sanitization – Innovation
Manufacturers’ response to the COVID-19 crisis put the innovators to work and Envision SQ Inc., a Guelph, Ont. manufacturer of pollution filters, proved to be one of the leaders. It created a semi-permanent disinfectant that sticks to virtually any surface and kills COVID-19.
EnvisionSQ is an R&D company that creates photocatalytic nano-coatings designed to break down air pollution. Prior to the pandemic, it was perfecting SmogStop, a coating proven to be effective for reducing indoor and outdoor air pollution. When the pandemic hit, the Envision team reworked the formula, creating a coating that kills disease-causing germs, including the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19.
GermStopSQ is a non-toxic liquid that kills on contact and dries to create a clear, self-sanitizing coating that disinfects for weeks. The nano-engineered adhesive incorporated in the formula sticks to virtually any surface. It can also be applied to gowns, face shields and other PPE to enhance protection. The current formulation is semi-permanent – it will stick to surfaces unless it’s scrubbed or dissolved in water.
The liquid is applied in a variety of ways: wiped on with a cloth, sprayed on using compact hand-held sprayers or applied with pressure-pump sprayers for large-scale applications. It’s also applied to new products on the assembly line.
Independent lab tests show GermStopSQ kills proxies for the virus – 99.993% of coronavirus 229E and 99.99999% of cystovirus Phi6 – within five minutes.
In April, the company secured a grant from Next Generation Manufacturing Canada to scale up production of GermStopSQ to produce more than 1,000 litres a week. That’s enough solution to coat one million doorknobs, 75,000 kilometres of handrails or the interiors of 200 passenger airplanes.
Sanitization – Hygiene
The COVID-19 pandemic quickly demonstrated a need for hand sanitizers and Hunter Amenities responded.
The multinational cosmetic manufacturer with an operation that covers about 235,000 square feet in Burlington, Ont. and employs about 1,500 people, quickly pivoted its manufacturing focus to produce a hand sanitizer that isn’t scented or alcohol-based.
This was something new for the company that makes personal care products such as shampoos and lotions for hotels, spas and retail outlets.
Within a few weeks Hunter Amenities developed, tested and manufactured a line of non-alcohol based hand sanitizers; procured difficult to obtain ingredients; obtained Health Canada and FDA approval; instituted highly rigorous additional quality control; developed sales and marketing materials; listed with several large retailers; and brought back all of its manufacturing team.
To drive production efficiently, cycle times were analyzed and several lean studies were conducted leading to doubling and tripling of throughput compared to 2019.
Filling lines were modified to optimize the flow of liquids and reduce machine cycle time, and blending processes were standardized while blending time was reduced, which led to reduced rework and defects.
Forty Creek Distillery Ltd
Machines Italia – COVID Hero.
Forty Creek Distillery Ltd. (a Campari Canada company) in Grimsby, Ont. has done its bit for the COVID-19. And that has earned the distiller of whisky the Machines Italia Hero award, for the company that has the most significant or novel impact on the pandemic using Italian-made machinery.
After quickly acquiring a COVID-19 site licence from Health Canada at the outset of the pandemic, Forty Creek Distillery began producing and donating high-alcohol hand sanitizer to St. Catharine’s General Hospital, Red Cross Niagara and other community and health organizations. Other distillers were also helped. Forty Creek donated high-strength alcohol to support their sanitizer efforts.
Help was provided to bartenders, hard-pressed by the closure or scaling back of restaurants and bars, with a $50,000 cash donation to the Bartenders Benevolent Fund. This donation was part of the #ShakenNotBroken initiative that Campari Group has undertaken globally.
Campari Canada’s Stir Crazy program, in collaboration with Bartender Atlas, engaged over 130 bartenders to create cocktails and content. Through this program, Campari Canada paid more than $35,000 directly to some of Canada’s most creative bartenders. The company has also partnered with Longslice Brewery and The Aviary Brewpub to buy meals for those in need. With the latest donation, Campari Canada provided more than$85,000 in support to the hospitality industry.
In 2017, the bottling facility at Forty Creek was upgraded. Italian suppliers GAI and Maspack installed equipment for a new production line, increasing capacity by 30 per cent.