Gerber Technology’s PPE Task Force came together quickly
Posted April 30, 2020
What began as an idea at Gerber Technology quickly blossomed – literally over a weekend – into something big as it relates to addressing the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortage.
The Tolland, Conn.-based company provides software and automation solutions that help apparel and industrial customers improve their manufacturing and design processes and more effectively manage and connect the supply chain. So what it did next seemed like a natural fit for companies aiming to transition into PPE production.
Gerber already had recent experience helping to convert Chinese manufacturers into the production of PPE to address the COVID-19 mitigation plans in China. So Lenny Marano, the company’s vice president of Product Management and Marketing, thought it would be a good idea if the company pull together some patterns for face masks to make available to its domestic customers as the pandemic was beginning to reach the U.S. in larger proportions last month, he said.
That led to discussions with his colleagues, who advised that Gerber also had patterns and markers available for other PPE products such as medical gowns and Hazmat suits. So, in a matter of a couple of days, Gerber decided to put together the Gerber PPE Task Force and Resource Team to support its global customers and partners as they work to increase production or transition to manufacturing PPE.
Since its launch on March 24, the Task Force has more than 700 people sign up on its Gerber PPE COVID-19 Resource page. There, companies or individuals have a number of services and resources available, such as production-ready patterns, cut files, markers and tech packs; help with the setup of cutter parameters specific to the selected fabrics; training, software, equipment and service technicians to ramp up production; contact information for fellow suppliers and manufacturers through its PPE Manufacturing Matchmaking Program; and more.
“Our PPE COVID-19 Resource Page is a one-stop shop for all the information you need if you're converting over to PPE,” Marano said.
Gerber’s global network of technology partners have provided comprehensive expertise and support to build an end-to-end “trusted supply chain” for personal protective equipment, Marano said. Gerber’s partners include leading industry companies and associations such as: SEAMS, the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), the American Apparel & Footwear Assocation (AAFA), the Sewn Products Equipment Suppliers of America (SPESA), the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), Elevate Textiles/American & Efird, Coats, Fashion for Frontline, Henderson Sewing Machine Co., Suuchi and Zilingo.
“We built a list of all the material suppliers and various producers that we know from all the different industry associations in which we’re affiliated, whether it's SEAMS or SPESA or another group,” Marano said.
As part of the initiative, the company created the Gerber PPE Resource Team made up of dedicated experts who can offer advice, share best practices, support and technology to produce certain types of masks as well as protective apparel and accessories, including raw material procurement and onsite support.
“We've brought in experts from all of our different areas, whether it's multi-ply cutting, spreading, CAD design, tech-pack construction or something else and put them on this Task Force to really act as consultants to our customers as they make this transition,” he said.
Many of its hundreds of employees across the U.S. have pivoted into the PPE world, Marano said. On a daily basis, the company continues to “triage” customers by offering them guidance as well as providing matchmaking services, he added.
“Different manufacturers have different types of capacity for different things,” he said. “Some customers are saying, ‘I have a ton of orders that I can't fill. I can do three-quarters of it by myself but I need 25 percent. Who in my area can I work with that has Gerber equipment that you guys trust and has your software we could partner with to sub-contract it out?’ We also have customers who say, “I have 10 cutters but because of the product we have now, we have only 100 sewers. Do you know anybody that has the sewing capacity if I send them the cut business?’ We help with those kind of questions, for example.”
Gerber also gets questions from companies converting into PPE and are seeking to ramp up production, but they need more equipment, he added.
“So we're working on getting equipment expedited in from our factory in Massachusetts or our factory in Shanghai, and we’re trying to get that deployed as quickly as possible,” Marano said. “Then we will manage the installation of it, the support and the parts that go along with that.
“I have a person who works for me that, effective today (Monday), her one mission in life is to just manage all of the PPE equipment orders that we're getting in, from order all the way through installation,” he added. “It requires a full-time person.”
Gerber Technology has an installation base of several thousands of cutters throughout the U.S., so as part of this initiative it decided to develop a pre-packaged set of cutting parameters for all the different types of materials, Marano noted.
“We have put together that suite of tools,” he said. “If you're converting over, we'll give you all of the data you need to get that line converted.
“And then we found that people were looking for guidance on how to get orders, so we ended up getting on FEMA's RFQ for PPE that we forward to our users,” he added. “We put it all in that big resource page.”