Primex Design & Fabrication Employees Step Up for Pandemic Response

Primex Design & Fabrication, PD&F, the leading manufacturer of reusable, returnable and recyclable plastic shipping containers, custom interior dunnage, protective packaging, point of purchase displays, retail packaging and automotive components, has been working since April in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. PD&F has been producing its PrimexProtect™ line of personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing products for medical personnel, first responders and others.

Though these products are now a part of our current culture, the Primex story of how they created and manufactured these products is anything but common. According to Business Unit Director Doug Borgsdorf, “the Primex team stepped up in an extraordinary way to get these products to the heroes in our nation who needed them ‘yesterday’.” “Overnight, in April, we designed our first prototype face shield in response to a call from Reid Health in Richmond and started production in less than a week. Our design and production team is simply remarkable in their dedication to this need.” And the Primex team has been working 12-hour shifts, three shifts per day every day since, to keep up with demand for the face shields and other PPE and social distancing products.

Shortly after the face shields began to ship, Primex realized they needed to increase manufacturing capacity, so they immediately engaged three other Richmond companies, B & F Plastics, Ahaus Tool and Hoosier Container, to help with production and shipping of the 30-thousand face shields per day they are now delivering. As an example, Hoosier produced 35-thousand shipping boxes for Primex in two days. Additionally, Primex involved some competitors including Barber Packaging of Bangor, Michigan and Special Design Products of Columbus, Ohio in the business.

“We’ve increased our own workforce from 73 to 90 during this period and we’re helping our partners in this venture avoid the layoffs that many manufacturers are experiencing during the pandemic,” said Borgsdorf. Barber’s Luke Barber agrees. “Since we were heavily dependent on the automotive industry, we took a big hit when the pandemic started. But the business we got from Primex allowed us to keep our workforce busy and even now has helped us get some non-automotive jobs.” Between die cutting, assembly and shipping, the five companies are helping PD&F meet the extraordinary demand for the PrimexProtect™ products. All together there are nearly 200 workers involved in the effort.

The face shields were just the beginning. Since April, PD&F’s PrimexProtect™ line has expanded to include social distancing barriers, golf cart dividers, signage, retail barriers and medical waste containers, all proudly made in the U.S.A. “Our people are constantly asking what they can do to help. It has been a remarkable journey and we’re immensely proud of the way our employees and partners are responding,” said Borgsdorf.

‘Apollo 13 moment:’ Richmond company designs, produces shields for Reid

A global shortage of Personal Protective Equipment that was putting thousands of healthcare workers at great risk has led to an “Apollo 13 moment” at a Richmond plastics company — and major relief to Reid Health’s clinical staff on the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The new virus outbreak worldwide, along with panic buying and hoarding, left health systems dangerously ill-equipped to care for new patients due to limited supplies of gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields and gowns. So in what company officials are calling their own “Apollo 13 moment,” Primex Plastics is already making two different kinds of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that Reid Health officials say will greatly enhance their ability to protect staff during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

In a series of almost miraculous circumstances, Primex developed, designed and scheduled mass production – all in just two days — of face shields to be used with special protective helmets at Reid that protect staff dealing with contagious airborne disease. As word spread, the company is also ramping up production to help other healthcare providers.

“We can’t overstate the positive impact this will have on our team members on the frontlines in facing this outbreak, especially when our heroes are from our own community.” Craig Kinyon, Reid Health President/CEO

“We can’t overstate the positive impact this will have on our team members on the frontlines in facing this outbreak, especially when our heroes are from our own community,” said Craig Kinyon, Reid Health President/CEO. He said the production of these shields will greatly enhance the safety of his team. “We have to protect our team or we risk not having people to care for patients. The team at Primex truly stepped up on our behalf – and with unbelievable speed.”

Reid’s original equipment and mask

Scott Rauch, Reid Health Vice President, cited “an amazing” series of events that led to Primex getting involved. Brent Cotter, who is a manager in the Material Services department at Reid that deals with supplies, suggested this past Sunday the idea of asking if a local plastics company could help with the shortage of shields. Rauch happens to attend a Bible study with Dale Blunk, who works in inside sales at Primex. Rauch reached out Sunday evening.

Blunk then contacted coworkers in production and design. By early Monday morning the Primex and Reid Health teams were at the table with a sample of what Reid needed. Then the Primex team went to work.

Doug Borgsdorf, Business Unit Director, who runs the division that is making the shields, said his team from production and design took Reid’s sample and gathered samples of other products. “We took all the things we have in our building that we make, threw them on the table and said ‘here it is: our Apollo 13.’ We all sat down – eight feet apart – and said, ‘how do we do this?'”

Borgsdorf said their main product up to now was returnable protective packaging. “Now we were looking at protective packaging for people.” Other things had to fall into place, and they did. Suppliers responded quickly with materials needed. The type of plastic necessary for the special shields happened to be the type in production currently at their factory – so the right material was immediately available.

The Primex creation

After a few tries with design, the shield for the helmets was ready. As a bonus, another prototype that doesn’t involve a helmet was also created. Reid Health liked it so well, they ordered a supply of them too. After 1,000 of the first shield is produced and delivered, they will produce the second one soon after. The second one will alleviate a shortage of goggles by providing eye protection and also protect the masks under it, allowing them to be used longer and conserve a limitedsupply.

Borgsdorf said Mike Cramer, company president, was in full support of the effort of Primex in supporting Reid.

Sam Iden, M.D., Reid Emergency, said the equipment will play a huge role in reducing staff anxieties as they treat a growing number of patients. “I am so very appreciative of their efforts and assistance. We were becoming critically low on vital protective gear due to nationwide supply chain issues. Primex and its employees are playing a vital role in protecting healthcare workers and saving lives. Personally I now have a greater comfort in knowing that when I need to do an invasive procedure that puts the team at risk we have the tools needed to stay safe. I am so proud of our entire community and there outpouring of support.”

Stephanie Burden, manager of emergency nursing at Reid Health, said the Primex crew “dropped everything. They were all hands on deck” as they took Reid’s existing helmets and quickly worked to design the replacement. “It’s such a relief to the staff,” she said, noting how emergency workers are part of the frontlines of such an outbreak. “We couldn’t use the helmets at all without the shields,” she said.

The prototype shield that will help protect eyes and save other masks.

Darin Dubbs, Director of Human Resources at Primex, said this was a bright spot during a very trying time we are all facing today. “This time is not about business. It is a time of unity,” he said. “Our ability to help in the crisis has been uplifting to the employees at Primex. We are happy to be able help Reid Health and others in the community, and continue to provide stable employment to our employees.”

As news has spread on social media, Borgsdorf said Primex is getting numerous requests from other hospitals and health systems, and is now on track to make 100,000 shields.

Jennifer Bales, M.D., Reid Health’s Chief of Staff and also an ER physician, said Primex’s efforts brought hope. ” There are not many bright moments in the preparation for this crisis, but when the community becomes part of our team, I can see a gleam of hope. We will face the threat ahead together, with stronger armor thanks to Primex’s efforts.”

​Amanda Martinez, RN, Clinical Practice Leader in Reid’s ER, says the impact is significant for her team. “We are really grateful for what they were able to do for us,” she said. “Honestly, the need for these things is probably going to get greater.”

“We will face the threat ahead together, with stronger armor thanks to Primex’s efforts.” — Jennifer Bales, M.D. Chief of Staff

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‘Houston, we have a partnership:’ Companies join in making face shields

A successful effort by a Richmond company to manufacture equipment to protect healthcare and emergency workers now involves three companies who are providing thousands of face shields to customers across the nation.

Doug Borgsdorf, Business Unit Director with Primex Plastics, says the effort’s updated tagline is “Houston, we have a new partnership!” He was referencing how the company described two weeks ago an “Apollo 13 moment” when his team looked at what Reid Health needed and then gathered up things they normally make on a table to figure out how to make face shields – and then doing so in two days. News of the effort spread and resulted in two more Richmond companies joining in to help in what has become a national effort.

Workers on the job at B & F Plastics

Ahaus Tool & Engineering, Inc., and B & F Plastics are also working with Primex to produce the shields, which have been ordered by more than 75 other healthcare systems. Borgsdorf notes this project is the first time the three companies have collaborated like this – before, they were suppliers or customers of each other.

“I think this really goes to the heart of small town USA and the drive of people working together in ways we probably never thought possible,” he said. “I’m so very proud.”

Justin Scheiben, Vice President at B & F, said his company was aware of the need for face shields and heard what Primex was doing for Reid Health, so the company offered to help. His company supplies products for several plastic and rubber markets and has seen a slowdown in the automotive and RV industry that was affecting his business. “We have been able to transition 12 employees into the die-cutting/fabrication part of this face shield process, which has helped in not having to cut hours or potentially lay-off anyone in this unexpected slowdown.”

In yet another community support moment, B & F also purchased a supply of the shields and donated them to local law enforcement agencies, including Richmond Police, Wayne County Sheriff’s and Reid Health Police.

Most of the companies’ current effort is to produce the more broadly used face shield that Primex developed for Reid, though the company is also making shields for a special protective helmet for Tacoma, Wash., hospitals.

At Ahaus, company officials say they were able to quickly develop a process to support Primex, with Ahaus team members assembling 75,000 to 100,000 masks a week. Jeff Sheridan, Vice President and Co-Owner, said the company has a dedicated production space with 12 assembly work stations along with other areas for staging materials and final packaging. “We have also adjusted some work schedules to get a partial second shift in place for assembly. This type of production is very different from our normal business of designing and building custom manufacturing equipment, so it has been a big adjustment for our whole team to get into a high volume production mode very quickly. I could not be more pleased with how our team has jumped in to help.”

The face shield developed by Primex.

In what Primex officials dubbed their “Apollo 13 moment,” a chance connection a couple of weeks ago led to Primex figuring out how to make the shields for Reid in just two days. Brent Cotter, who is a manager in the Material Services department at Reid that deals with supplies, suggested to Scott Rauch, Reid Health Vice President, that a plastics company may be able to help. Rauch happened to attend a Bible study with Dale Blunk from Primex. That connection led to a meeting the next day and production in two more.

The reports on that effort spread the news, which led to orders coming in from across the country from hospitals struggling with a national shortage of protective equipment. Before the COVID-19 emergency, the company normally made returnable protective packaging.

Borgsdorf said his plants are now able to produce almost 350,000 face shields and 20,000 “bio helmet” shields a week.

Kevin Ahaus, President and Co-owner, says his team has a great attitude about the change, its partnerships and the challenges. “This production atmosphere is a challenge for our team, which is accustomed to designing and building custom equipment. The project should give many of us a renewed appreciation and understanding of how our equipment helps the overall process and lives of those making products on a daily basis. We are also very excited to be working with other companies in Richmond to help people serving on the front lines of this crisis. We know that the people of the community come together in times of need, and this moment is no different. We are honored to be a part of that.”

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Primex develops plastic divider system for golf carts

PrimexProtect Eagle and Birdie lines designed to help courses maintain player spacing while operating at full capacity.

To help keep golfers on the course while still practicing social distancing, Indiana-based Primex Plastics Corporation has created the PrimexProtect Eagle and Birdie lines of golf cart dividers (patent pending). The dividers are easily installed plastic shielding systems for golf carts, allowing them to be shared by two golfers while helping maintain social distancing and getting courses running at full capacity.

The Eagle system extends from the seat back to the dash, while the Birdie version runs from the seat back to the front edge of the seat. Both systems are made from clear vinyl sheet, attach easily with no drilling or tools required, and roll up out of the way when not needed. The dividers are constructed with use hook and loop fasteners for attachment to the cart roof, and galvanized wire weighting at the bottom. They can be disinfected with mild soap and water or most cleaning agents.

Since early March, Primex has been producing its line of PrimexProtect products to ensure safety for first responders, medical personnel, other employees and customers. With the Eagle and Birdie dividers, the product line keeps expanding and now includes face shields, social distancing barriers and medical waste containers, as well as social distancing signage and ear protection.

All PrimexProtect products are proudly produced in Richmond, Indiana, at Primex’s Design & Fabrication division.

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