It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since the start of the pandemic. Once in high-demand, masks and other non-medical forms of personal protective equipment (PPE) are now in such great supply that you can find them everywhere from convenience stores to homemade. As “normal” as things may seem now, however, we can hardly forget that it didn’t start out that way. The shortage of PPE in those first few weeks and even months put the already coveted items in even greater demand. It seemed like no one could get any fast enough, and our local emergency personnel were among the growing number of frontline workers in desperate need of proper protective gear. Embroidery Solutions, one of our industries, stepped up to bridge the gap.
President and owner Larry Severini said that they fielded an urgent request from Williamsburg Regional Hospital, as well as our local police and other emergency services departments for assistance in providing the items.
“This was an urgent request for help, as there were extreme shortages of these items for many months at the beginning of the pandemic,” said Severini.
The Kingstree company initially began producing face masks and expanded to the production of reusable medical gowns and face coverings.
Embroidery Solutions’ normal production consists of schiffli embroidery related products that are used to manufacture items such as United States flags, and for use in many categories of decorative fabrics and fashion design related fabrics for the commercial, home furnishing, high fashion, upholstery, women's wear, and intimate apparel industries.
In order to make the switch to protective gear, some department personnel and some operating stations were shifted within the factory finishing departments to accommodate the manufacturing requirements of these new product lines. There was also considerable design and development work expended to create the proper pattern size and fit for the embroidered face masks that were produced.
“We also had to research and identify new resources of raw materials and component items like filtration material, elastic strapping and face fabric materials that would be appropriate for these new product lines,” said Severini. “We then initiated some basic training and procedures within the manufacturing departments so that our workers could transition to these new areas with better production and efficiency in these new categories.”
Severini said that he is thankful that the supply of these products became more plentiful and readily available in the months after the start of the pandemic.
“As a result, we only produced fewer than 10,000 face masks and only a few thousand gowns before the supply of these items became more available from more economical and efficient resources,” said Severini.
When asked what he is most proud of about the experience, Severini said that he is grateful for the opportunity and that they were able and willing to respond as quickly as they did when requested.
“During what was considered a national state of emergency at the inception of the pandemic, providing assistance to local healthcare and emergency worker facilities was extremely satisfying and rewarding. Just to know that in some small way our mask and gown materials may have helped to keep others safe and healthy was a very rewarding experience,” said Severini.
For the most part, he believes that the face masks are being used for personal use and at some small business facilities. Embroidery Solutions is also using them during its own operations, in whose future Severini feels assured.
“Thankfully, our company, our workforce and our core product categories have remained strong and resilient through the crisis,” said Severini. “We are confident that the future of our manufacturing operations remains intact and secure.”
***Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the subject and not of Williamsburg County Economic Development Board.***