-- Success Story --
WMG supports COVID-19 visor production for the frontline
WMG assisted the MAN Group prototype and scale-up of the manufacture of 20,000 face visors that were then donated to NHS Hospitals. C. Brandauer and Grove Design are now pivoting their business and entering the PPE sector.
The Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN) Group wanted to use their collaborative manufacturing capability to produce much-needed face visors. WMG, along with the nine other MAN Group members, Alucast, Barkley Plastics, Brandauer, C-MAC SMT, Grove Design, James Lister & Sons, Kimber Mills International, Muller Holdings, PP Control & Automation and Ricor, worked together to design, test, and manufacture visors for frontline NHS workers. The Group were quick to mobilise their combined expertise and capability to deliver this vital project.
A prototype needed to be developed to prove the usability and functionality of the new visor. Grove Design, an industrial design specialist, quickly created the initial product digitally which WMG could then “3D print” used advanced additive layer manufacturing to produce product closely resembling the final product.
Austin Owens, Grove Design, said, “We initially started producing and distributing a few visors to help the NHS, but quickly realised we needed a more robust production method to keep up with demand” said Austin Owens, founder of Grove Design.
“This is when we approached other members in the MAN Group to look at options and came up with the plan to design and develop our own version"
The baton was then passed to WMG. We used our advanced facilities for this critical piece of work, and applied our knowledge in product development and testing to create a working prototype. We were able to prove it was fit for function in a tight turnaround so that it could reach the next stage of development.
Barkley Plastics then worked on the tooling and the injection moulding for the headband as in 50% less time than normal. Matt Harwood, Barkley Plastics, commented, “The way our visor has been designed should make wearing them for longer periods slightly easier is lightweight, easy to assemble with a push clip feature, suitable for repeated use, can be easily cleaned (the headband can even be put in a dishwasher) and includes a full peak for better protection.”
In parallel, James Lister and Sons, worked to supply the materials for the plastic visor and to assemble the product.
The mobilisation of these companies during the pandemic was no small feat. The collaboration of the MAN Group at this time meant that more than 20,000 life-saving face visors were donated to the NHS within weeks. The visors reached clinical staff at New Cross NHS Hospital and helped to protect hundreds of patients, families and staff.
Mark Swift, Head of WMG SME Group, commented, “The NHS has been doing a phenomenal job protecting staff and patients. WMG was keen to use our advanced equipment to help MAN Group act fast, produce a working prototype so they could get the face visors to those that needed the most in just a few days. This a good example of how complementary virtual networks, such as MAN Group, can use their collective capability to produce new products and quickly enter new sectors.”
Not only were more than 20,000 face visors designed, tested, produced and donated, and there is now a commercial prospect for the visors that will help to pivot the manufacturing industry that has been severely hit in the past three months.
Businesses are now commercialising the visors. Rowan Crozier, CEO at C. Brandauer, commented, “The manKIND visor demonstrates the power of collaborative working, with every member contributing to the investment, technicality, development and distribution of the 20,000 donated masks. The feedback from the Not for profit beneficiaries, including the NHS, quickly led us to explore the commercialisation of the Visor and we are thrilled to be working with S2F and Grove Design to deliver the visor in the UK and Overseas”
Mark added, “We’ve been a member of the MAN Group for more than ten years and this unique collaborative cluster just shows how a network of small businesses can compete and deliver at pace.”
The visors can be requested and purchased through the manKIND visor website: https://www.mankindvisor.co.uk/
On March 23rd, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the lockdown of the UK, restricting movements and closing certain industries in order to safeguard the public and reduce pressure on the NHS. Despite these measures, the NHS was working flat-out to care for those affected by the COVID-19 virus. To protect staff and patients, frontline workers had to cover from head to toe in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that needed to be changed daily, sometimes hourly, for it to remain effective. It is no surprise, then, that after several weeks, the health service encountered a shortage of PPE supplies. Those that were available, including facial coverings and surgical masks, were not designed for prolonged wear, and were restrictive and uncomfortable. Clear plastic face visors, therefore, became a necessity, but there were limited stocks and no pre-existing UK manufacturing capability.