With PPE in its orbit, Venus Group moved quickly to fill urgent need
Posted June 25, 2020
By Devin Steele (DSteele@eTextileCommunications.com)
Venus Group, based in Foothill Ranch, Calif., with additional cut-and-sew operations in Fort Lawn, S.C., specializes in a wide range of textile products, including naperies (linens, tablecloths, napkins, et al), towels, sheets and more for numerous markets, including restaurants, laundries, hotels, hospitals and government applications.
The company is a longtime manufacturer of healthcare textiles, including bed linens, blankets, patient gowns, scrubs, lab coats, mattress pads, bibs and more, so Venus leaders knew that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) production was “in its lane” when the urgent need hit, according to Jeyur Patel, whose father (Raj) and uncle (Kirit) founded the family-owned and operated company in 1972.
Venus moved quickly into U.S.-based manufacturing at its ISO 001-certified S.C. facility and rapid distribution of medical-grade, disposable face mask production, he added.
“Our customers really need these supplies, and we knew it would be a challenge from a supply chain perspective to rely on China for those products because of the skyrocketing demands,” he said. “Consequently, to be able to get these products to our customers in a matter of days as opposed to weeks or months, we decided to manufacture them in the U.S. Not only could we get them to those who need them faster, but we could also control the product quality in-house.
Once the decision was made to move into PPE, Venus reached out to longtime partner Milliken & Company to learn more about its BioSmart antimicrobial fabric that is said to kill 99.9 percent of most bacteria and virus.
“The BioSmart fabric is soft, breathable and durable for over 75 laundries and a great fabric to make washable masks that many of our customers needed,” said Dennis Jackson, the company’s vice president of production, distribution and quality control in Fort Lawn, S.C. “Once we determined the design for our face mask, the training curve for our employees was quick. In a matter of a few days our employees had mastered this process.”
Also, in an effort to supply other items to fight the pandemic, Venus purchased three automated mask machines, he added. These machines will produce medical-grade disposable masks using nonwoven fabric that is latex- and metal-free – and made in the USA, Jackson added.
Once these machines are in production, the company will be manufacturing over 2 million mask per week with large quantities of orders to fulfill quickly, Jackson noted.
“All employees have been instrumental in making this happen, and all feel that they have been a part of fighting this horrible pandemic our country is going through,” he said.
The company also has pivoted into the distribution of thin-gauge, clear polycarbonate face shields that offer an additional layer of protection for masked workers.
Venus masks end up at various entities, including industrial laundries, hotels, grocery stores, healthcare facilities such as private and VA hospitals, and many other destinations, Patel said.
“We're always careful about keeping the healthcare heroes at the front of the queue because they need these products the most,” he said.
And the company is nimble, Jackson pointed out. Venus tries to ship all orders within 24 hours of receiving, he said, adding: “On the BioSmart washable mask we are in a good inventory position and can ship orders very quickly.”
Venus Group typically runs two 10-hour shifts, five days per week, but once its mask machines are running, it plans to run them 24 hours, 7 days per week, Jackson said. “It is very important that we have product to cover customer needs,” he said.
Customer forecasts and inventory levels have always been important to Venus, and the company evaluates customer needs daily and manufactures to these needs, he added.
“Venus management has be very proactive searching for solutions to provide PPE products,” Jackson said. “Both management and all employees feel like they are doing something to make a difference in these difficult times. Venus Group and our employees are proud to be part of manufacturing PPE products to help.”
Going forward, he said, “It makes sense to onshore some if not all production. Maybe not all of it will come back to the U.S. because the cost is higher in the U.S. amongst other variables, but I think that from a national safety perspective, you should have a certain amount of increased production here to prevent these types of shortages from occurring again so our healthcare professionals on the frontlines don't have to be reusing masks and other PPE to get by. We should be able to say that if our citizens need something like this, we have them covered.”