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Automotive

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Specialised covers rapidly responds to demand for PPE

UK-based Specialised Covers Ltd manufactures protective covers for cars, caravans and motorcycles. We spoke to Managing Director, Katie Fishwick, to discuss how they transformed their production to meet demand for PPE for the National Health Service.

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How did you manage to get organized?

We initially signed up to the government portals but after a few weeks we hadn’t heard anything. Then a local company who were contracted to supply mattresses to the Nightingale hospitals approached us to see if we could support with PPE production. Their fabrics are already approved by the NHS and are CE marked so we could simply manufacture from their raw materials. We were confident that we had the right machinery and staff to fulfil their requests so myself and my commercial manager visited their site and within two days we were manufacturing for them.

What was the main challenge you faced?

Clarity, even though this company had initial POs the volume and timings were unclear. PO’s are still slow to come through which is preventing the purchasing of additional raw materials. They were also unfamiliar with producing goods in large volumes so getting hold of the fabric and materials to make the gowns was a challenge and inconsistent. This then disrupts the production line and reduces our efficiencies. The Lectra cutter was able to work through the material at such a high rate it supported the volume requirement easily and was only idle due to the fact we had run out of the material.

How long did it take you to become operational?

We had an initial team of 5 at our facility on the Monday to discuss the work, staff and processes required and we were producing with 33 staff by Tuesday.  We initial digitised a sample supplied by the company and then graded that up to the required sizes. Lectra also supplied digital files with the same data which was great and speeded up the process. Once nested we managed to optimise the fabric usage so managed to get more gowns out of the fabric we had been supplied than originally thought which was a huge help.

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Approximately how many gowns were you able to manufacture?

To date we have produced over 3000 gowns and 1200 body bags. Both products have been cut on the Lectra cutter from multiple different materials.

If you had one piece of advice to share, what would it be?

Be able to adapt. Due to the uncertainty of demand be ready and able to pivot fast to other products. Ensure the supply of raw material is there and can meet the volume demand of productions. Supporting and being able to achieve lean manufacturing for this type of product is imperative. 

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