Playtex, under the guidance of HANES SA, has become a brand powerhouse, with over 800 employees within their South African manufacturing plant. The company has been successfully sourcing local employment and resources to bring women the quality and comfort they have come to know for years.
How did you manage to switch your production lines and production processes?
We looked at what material other countries that were more advanced in the Covid-19 pandemic needed, and we thought about what we could do about it. Given our machinery and the type of materials we work with, we decided to prototype the production of a 3-ply cotton face mask developed by Hanesbrands. We adapted the design to the local constraints in terms of machines and materials, and we came out with a product that we can run in our factory (utilizing about 25% of our total capacity) and that helps prevent the spread of Covid-19.
What challenges did you face?
The challenges were mainly how to localize the Hanesbrands global design to maximize the utilization of our machines and materials. After that, we needed the appropriate authorizations to transform our non-essential operation (underwear) into an essential one (face masks). Finally, we needed to soothe the fear some of our workforce had about contamination. So we re-enforced hygiene measures, practiced social distancing and monitored symptoms.
How many masks do you produce per day?
We currently produce about 11,000 masks per day. We are looking to increase this output by making slight modifications—without affecting the mask itself—to the current mask design, in order to utilize additional machinery/capacity.
How many people are working in the process?
Approximately 125 people are working on the masks.
How many days do you plan to be operational with this task?
As long as the lockdown stays in place and, beyond that, for as long as there is demand for them.
Did this new process cover design, HR, production, the supply chain, etc.?
The entire team participated in this process. Design & Development found the appropriate mask design and technical features, Supply Chain ensured that the appropriate materials were made available for production, the Mechanics and Production Teams converted our underwear lines into face mask lines, and HR & Compliance ensured that we observed, enforced and adhered to all Health, Safety and Compliance regulations and protocols.