Printers Nationwide Step Up After Hearing Calls for Help About Shortage of Medical Protective Gear Due to COVID-19
With ever-tighter turnaround times and strict SLAs imposed by customers, printing companies — in normal times — are experts at crisis management when it comes to getting jobs, done right, out the door and on time. But the COVID-19 pandemic, and the health care crisis it has spawned, has created a whole new level of challenges. Print shops across the country are battling to keep their establishments open, and their workers employed. They’ve had to fight to remain on the lists of “essential” or “life-sustaining” businesses, as states imposed shelter-in-place and stay-at-home executive orders to help thwart the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The graphic arts community has also responded overwhelmingly to calls for help concerning the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) available for hospital workers, first responders, and other health care providers who continue to risk their own lives to help save the lives of others.
Other ways printers are stepping up in their local communities and regions in response to the pandemic run the gamut — from producing components for COVID-19 test kits, medical ID cards, and signage for coronavirus testing centers — to personalized direct mail that contains important communications and fundraising appeals from overburdened charities — to food and drug packaging — to educational materials to help families home school their children — and much more.
As just one example, Manchester, Conn.-based Allied Printing Services is doing most, if not all, of these activities. Due to the lack of protective gear, Allied President and CEO John Sommers and his 380 full-time team members were able to quickly convert manufacturing lines to produce thousands of face shields that are being donated to area hospitals, ambulatory services, and health care providers.
Allied also developed educational workbooks for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center featuring crossword puzzles, word search, sudoku, coloring books, and other “enrichment” activities. In addition, the company’s charitable foundation donated money to a soup kitchen based in nearby Hartford, Conn.
But there are many more print services providers (PSPs) rising to meet the challenge:
- With a strong focus on fabric printing for banners, exhibits, and retail displays, Olympus Group, in Milwaukee, took advantage of its skilled sewing staff and manufacturing capabilities to produce masks and face shields for medical teams and first responders.
- Image Options, based in Foothill Ranch, Calif., has also shifted production capacity to manufacture face masks for local hospitals and to produce grocery shields. In addition, its CNC cutting systems are being used to produce pop-up beds, dividers, and intake desks — all of which can be produced for temporary medical settings.
- Calagaz Printing, a 17-employee shop in Mobile, Ala., quickly went from prototype to producing 5,000 face shields daily.
- Duggal Visual Solutions partnered with a fabrication company in the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Navy Yard to open a warehouse that’s assembling hundreds of thousands of face shields.
- On Long Island, another COVID-19 epicenter, the Minuteman Press franchise in Levittown, N.Y., is deploying 3D printers to manufacture face shields and ventilation parts.
- Graphic Visual Solutions, in Greensboro, N.C., is offering free printing of COVID-19 informational signs that clients can use to communicate best practices and safety protocols for mitigating the spread of the virus.
- In Sacramento, Calif., Time Printing Solutions Provider is printing signage created by the Centers for Disease Control for use in hospitals and businesses to encourage social distancing and hand-washing.
- Wilmington, Mass.-based commercial printer Kirkwood Printing stepped up to produce signage for testing centers, hospitals, and supermarkets, and mobilized for overnight delivery of outdoor signage printed for drive-through testing centers for a locally-headquartered national pharmacy.
These are just a handful of examples of PSPs throughout America that have risen to the challenge and, of course, there are many more performing similar efforts to make protective gear, volunteer, and help lead fundraising efforts.
If there was ever a time to feel a true sense of pride about how industry firms are responding to the needs of their communities — and even an entire nation — that time is certainly now.