Autins Group plc, a leading designer, manufacturer and supplier of acoustic and thermal insulation solutions for the automotive sector, has re-tooled its production processes to produce a new line in face masks following wholesale factory closures in the region.
The mask has been manufactured to a “medical” standard and is currently in the process of testing, attaining approvals and gaining CE marks in both Germany and the UK so that it can also be sold to key workers.
Group R&D Manager, Dr Kathy Beresford said: “At first we looked at replicating what others do in terms of face masks, but we couldn’t source the standard material. Capacity was sold out everywhere, and we tried all across Europe. We then looked at using our own, non-woven material that we make at our Tamworth location.
“We always knew it had filtration properties, but with our day-to-day work in the automotive sector keeping us very busy, we’d never really explored its potential any further. The car industry has taken a big hit during the COVID crisis with multiple factory shutdowns, so we found we had the time to develop this further.”
In a matter of weeks, workers at the Rugby-based company have gone from establishing a design and a concept to starting up production and getting its first orders. This is a process that normally takes anywhere from three months to more than three years.
Dr Beresford continued: “The small team who are working at Autins during this challenging time have been researching everything from testing regimes, EU regulations and product design, to learning how to use e-commerce and sourcing products we have never used before.”
The face masks are currently being sold to the general public as well as to nursing homes, care organisations and businesses that are looking to protect their workers from coronavirus when a phased return to work is expected at the end of the current lockdown period.
Production started on Good Friday (April 3) with the capacity to produce up to 44,000 units a week in the initial phase of production. So far orders have exceeded 120,000 masks and the team is now gearing up to produce up to 100,000 per week and evaluating the potential to do considerably more.
CEO of Autins, Gareth Kaminski-Cook said: “COVID has had a dramatic impact on the auto sector – we have had to furlough 93 per cent of our employees. But our response has been to look for opportunities, pursuing self-help measures to survive as a company and use our expertise to help the UK by supplying safety face masks.
“Luckily, we understand materials and have the right manufacturing capabilities, tenacity and innovative culture to develop solutions quickly – this is part of our DNA. But I have to say, I have been blown away by the fact that in less than four weeks we designed, developed and launched a very technical product into a market about which we previously knew nothing. We have supplied hospices, care homes, manufacturing companies as well as to the public. This is the right thing to be doing.”
Kaminski-Cook added: “The UK must create a UK-based PPE supply chain and Autins intends to be a part of this.”
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