J. Kirby Best, founder, president & CEO of OnPoint Manufacturing
OnPoint Manufacturing pivots to full protective mask protection
Posted April 30, 2020
By Devin Steele (DSteele@eTextileCommunications.com)
OnPoint Manufacturing, founded in Florence, Ala., in 2015, decided to pivot into PPE production on a Thursday night and, by Sunday, it had switched its operations into full protective mask production, said J. Kirby Best, founder, president & CEO.
The company, which specializes in on-demand mass customization in a highly automated, advanced production facility, is now primarily making protective face masks but is also producing some hospital gowns and scrubs – all new products for the company, he said.
“As there were no guidelines or examples to follow, our team designed them themselves,” Best said. “Since we specialize in one-off products, we felt we were stepping back into the Stone Age. We were carrying bundles around by hand. Masks and gowns are pretty simple products, so the sewing team was up to speed almost instantly. It took a few hours to dial in the cutting. Once the decision was made to transition a large percentage of the plant over, the pros in the plant just ran with it and did an amazing job.”
OnPoint started by turning out 3,000 masks per day and is currently up to about 5,000 masks per day, he added. He pointed out that currently, no gaps exist, but he is concerned about fabric supply in the next two months.
The company has remained fully staffed over the last few weeks and is actually seeking to hire more operators, he said.
“We are doing quite a bit of overtime, but otherwise it is normal,” Best said. “We could hire 10 more sewing operators today if we could find them.”
The company has worked with a combination of industry partners and customers on the PPE project. Once word got out, OnPoint started to quickly receive requests from businesses and healthcare systems that wanted a way to protect their employees, patients and customers, Best said.
“On a larger scale, we have a terrific relationship with Gerber Technology, which formed a Global PPE Task Force that has brought together more than 600 manufacturers, technology partners and industry coalition partners to make PPE products available broadly around the world,” he added.
Best said he doesn’t know to where final products will be distributed, but it has had two major purchase orders and those two clients have distributed them.
“The team has been delighted to be involved, but there is no question that the concern for others and their families has been a bit overwhelming,” Best said. “It has been an honor to be involved, but we are not doing anything that anyone else in our position wouldn’t have done. Everyone is stepping up. It’s truly heartwarming.”
In the long run, Best said the pandemic has shined a light on the importance of U.S. textile and apparel manufacturing.
“Over the past 30 years the industry has gone through some massive changes,” he said. “We are going through another one again. North America has been myopic in its analysis of the true costs of foreign manufacturing. I hope we pause and take a closer look at these costs. We can’t silo them, so the big picture is ignored, including the environment. We have incredible American ingenuity on our side – now is the time to use it. Stay safe!”