Advanced Manufacturing

Region’s Businesses Pivot Operations to Aid in COVID-19 Relief Effort

Innovation and adaptation have been paramount as many business across the greater Jacksonville area work to shift plans and production to meet emerging needs in light of COVID-19. These uncharted waters have led countless local businesses to be creative and hone in on ways to problem solve and pivot during this period of uncertainty.

The need for proper personal protective equipment, particularly face masks and shields, has been a widespread concern.  And with Jacksonville’s bustling health care sector, many hospitals – even beyond the region – are in low supply and are unable to meet the unprecedented demand.  Local companies have stepped forward and implemented changes in production to assist. Kaman Aerospace, the Jacksonville company that manufactures aerospace and defense products, has now shifted to making face shields for first responders.  Made in Space, the Jacksonville-based manufacturer of space infrastructure technologies, has taken it a step further and created a rapid response ventilator adapter for hospitals facing shortages. The team began by diverting 3D printers to create face shields for first responders and then realized that the need extended beyond just the shields.  Made in Space engineers worked with doctors in Jacksonville to create the ventilator adapter that could support multiple patients and their distinct settings needed for each. Local non-profits including Rethreaded, an organization that provides jobs for survivors of human trafficking, has begun sewing protective masks for Ascension St. Vincent’s caregivers, with four local credit unions covering the labor costs.

Local distilleries like St. Augustine Distillery, Manifest Distilling and Marlin & Barrel Distillery along with larger Jacksonville producers like Anheuser-Busch and Bacardi Bottling have begun to produce hand sanitizer. These distilleries were quick to identify a need and adjust production to accommodate the growing demand across the region. A volatile alcohol that is a blend of the ethanol, distilled water, aloe gel, vitamin E oil and essential oils is created in the early stages of the normal production process and can be bottled and used as sanitizer.  As part of a recently announced non-profit established by Anheuser-Busch, the company will use its supply and logistics network to begin producing and distributing bottles of hand sanitizer which will be utilized at Red Cross blood donation centers and to support emergency shelters for future relief efforts.

And as much of the country is under “stay-at-home” orders, people may be delaying a residential move. That has led Suddath, the global moving and logistics company headquartered in Jacksonville, to explore new lines of business.  The company has embraced their logistics DNA and found opportunities in helping people to transition to home offices, realign office spaces and even pack up and move college students out of dormitories after campuses shut down. The company has also found opportunities to house unused furniture in the emptied office spaces in their five warehouse locations in Jacksonville.

Companies across the Jacksonville region are doing what they can to keep employees working safely while meeting emerging needs due to COVID-19 and social distancing protocols. As businesses continue to navigate these uncertain times, it is clear that ingenuity, innovation and collaboration are at the core of what can help during the current state of the world.