Published in Manufacturing

From credenzas to face masks, high-end furniture maker retools for COVID-19

BY Friday, March 27, 2020 05:04pm

WYOMING — A high-end furniture manufacturer has idled work on custom home pieces but called back some laid-off staffers to sew much-needed masks amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Kindel Furniture Co. in Wyoming made the transition earlier this week, with company officials hatching the plan on Sunday and starting production on Tuesday. Kindel’s upholstery sewing machines were repurposed to make non-compliant N95 face masks.

COURTESY PHOTO

Using eight workers, Kindel now produces 150-200 masks a day at $2 each for a senior living center in Indiana. Kindel President and CEO Rob Burch expects production to ramp up in the coming days. 

“We’d be happy to help people in the Grand Rapids area as well,” Burch said.

Reached by phone Friday, Burch was traveling to a local Walmart to secure more cotton fabric for the masks. The company had been getting supplies from Jo-Ann Fabric, which has closed since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order earlier this week. Burch said he researched how to make N95 masks on the internet.

Workers at Kindel wash and dry the fabric then iron it and cut a pattern before starting the sewing process. The company also is using cotton fabric to make straps because they “can’t find any elastic in the marketplace right now,” Burch said.

“There are multiple steps to the sewing and assembly process, then ironing them again and bagging them,” he said.

The masks are sold to the senior living center for less than it costs to make each one, Burch added.

Kindel is albeit a small part of the expanding “arsenal of health” that has seen companies repurpose factories to produce various medical items in need, including ventilators, sanitizer and personal protection equipment. On Tuesday, Whitmer called on residents and businesses to donate various personal protection equipment to hospitals.

“What’s exciting to us is to see the private industry jumping in and trying to do things to help out and make a difference as we battle this thing together,” Burch said.

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