No one could have been prepared for a pandemic of the scale of COVID-19, one that has already claimed more than 900,000 lives worldwide. Within days of its unpredicted spread, it was clear that the planet was facing a crucial shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and life-saving medical supplies. Yet, thanks to the monumental efforts of a few innovative businesses and institutions, much-needed emergency medical supplies and safety solutions were, and continue to be, swiftly delivered to the entire nation. On the other hand, COVID-19 imposed changes to the way we live, the way we conduct business, and the safety measures that should be in place at any store or common area. This pushed many businesses to innovate and find new solutions to ensure safety at in work spaces and public areas. Here are our top 5 American companies at the forefront of the response to the pandemic, providing original solutions to protect and save lives, and products that every business will need as we collectively fight the spread of the virus.
1. Duggal Visual Solutions
New York City had just been put on lockdown when Duggal Visual Solutions was designated an essential business by the State of NY and transformed their Brooklyn based graphics and display manufacturing company into a hub for urgently needed PPE, with CEO Michael Duggal leading his team around the clock. So far, Duggal Visual Solutions has produced a phenomenal amount of PPE, including 2,635,000 face shields and over half a million medical aprons for first responders. In addition, the company set up production of reusable, branded multilayer face masks for corporations, venues, schools, and retailers. Their PPE operations, one of the first and fastest to be set up in March at the early stages of the spread of the pandemic, focused on the community, on serving first responders, and on contributing to national public health. Praised for their efforts and ingenuity by global media, as well as by the Mayor of New York City, who personally visited the site, Duggal inspired us with their commitment to a safer America and a safer world.
Beyond PPE, Duggal created an impressive range of products critical to keeping people safe at work, at home, and in public spaces. Their touchless hand sanitizer dispensers, to cite but one product, have been installed in countless museums, offices, and schools across the United States. And, with a return to what we hope is semi-normalcy on the horizon, Duggal’s bespoke room partitions, touchless temperature-checking digital kiosks, and social distancing graphics and displays have made it possible for thousands of Americans to work more safely, just like the over 100,000 desk shields they just produced help to protect children returning to schools.
As a creative company by nature, Duggal used all of its design and production resources at its disposal and showed a steadfast commitment to helping meet the varied needs of our country during the time of COVID19.
2 &3. Ford and 3M
Since late March, automobile maker Ford has shifted their usual focus to assign their engineers to produce protective equipment for medical workers, and reassigned their facilities to manufacture essential items to fight the pandemic. The company has been leading initiatives to design and produce crucial medical equipment and supplies for health care workers, first responders and COVID-19 patients. Ford’s manufacturing, purchasing and supply chain workers have notably been working hand in hand with 3M experts to help fulfil the rapidly increasing demand for PPE.
Aside for producing more than 3 million face shields, masks, and reusable gowns, Ford has partnered with 3M, best known for its Post-it Notes and Scotch tape, but also a producer of healthcare equipment, to increase the production of urgently needed equipment, in particular N95 respirators and powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs), the latter being produced in Ford’s repurposed Michigan facility, thanks to the help of paid UAW (Union Auto Workers) paid volunteers. The two companies succeeded in greatly increasing the availability of such equipment in the Unites States, by accelerating the manufacture of existing 3M PPE products and especially by innovating with a new PAPR to protect first responders and health care professionals.
Combining Ford manufacturing and engineering capacities with 3M’s expertise, these new PAPR were quickly designed in accordance to federal guidelines and prototyped, then distributed, in a matter of weeks. Developed with the guidance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) NIOSH National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory,they feature a hood and face shield covering their wearers’ head and shoulder, and a waist-mounted high-efficiency (HEPA) filter system providing filtered air for up to 8 hours. The air-blower system, similar the fans found in Ford vehicles’ ventilated seats, works with a rechargeable battery, thus protecting workers – and most crucially healthcare workers – for an extended period of time. Ford claims UAW volunteers have the capacity to make more than 100,000 of those, and 3M and Ford pledged to donate profits from the sale of PAPRs to COVID-19 related nonprofit organizations.
Among several initiatives, the car manufacturer is leading efforts to produce reusable gowns from airbag materials in collaboration with Joyson Safety Systems, manufacturing several million of them to date, and is helping Thermo Fisher Scientific on their production of COVID-19 testing kits, shifting its engineers’ focus from to produce glass vials needed in drive-through coronavirus test collection. Ford has also been collaborating with GE Healthcare to develop ventilators in the US and the UK. For its part, 3M is planning to produce more than one billion N95 respirators this year.
Known for supporting the communities it serves across the United States, Walmart has been playing a key role in providing Americans with much-needed reliable COVID-19 tests, by installing drive-through testing facilities at hundreds of its stores across the country as early as April, on a request by the White House. Working with insurance companies to provide tests free of charge, Walmart seeks to provide better access to all community members – and especially rural ones – to vital testing by donating their parking lot space, supplies, and employee’s time. As of mid-August 2020, the company claims to have tested close to 208,000 people across more than 350 sites. Called Community Testing Sites, all abide by the CDC, state and local guidelines concerning nasal swab tests. Any adult can make an online appointment and come on site to self-administer the test while in their vehicles, and supply the sealed sample into a container on their way out of the drive-thru site or at a pharmacy window, with results delivered in 2 to 7 days.
Global retail giant Amazon has launched an international initiative to support and speed up COVID-19 diagnostics, research, and testing. Their Amazon Web Services (AWS) department has pledged $20 million to an array of scientific initiatives – research institutions as well as private entities – to combat the pandemic, with a focus on COVID-19 detection and testing, in the hope of finding treatments and containing the disease. AWS has launched the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative, a worldwide program aimed to help researchers and promote collaboration among individuals and groups working to find innovative solutions to battle the pandemic, with funding combining AWS in-kind credits and technical support.
Amazon hopes to leverage its compute power, analytics and machine learning capabilities to help researchers process sizeable data sets more efficiently. Advised by leading global health experts, the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative, the 35 participating groups will have the opportunity to harness their collective insights and create a global dialogue to find innovative solutions for more accurate and cheaper testing, diagnosis, treatment and vaccines for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.