Nurses wearing Flow face shields. COURTESY PHOTO, Flow International

Nurses wearing Flow face shields. COURTESY PHOTO, Flow International

Kent-based Flow International provides 200,000 COVID-19 face shields to state

Waterjet manufacturer repurposes operations to produce high-grade PPE

Kent-based Flow International Corp., the world’s leading developer and manufacturer of ultrahigh-pressure waterjet cutting systems, announced that it has delivered 200,000 medical-grade face shields to the state of Washington to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“Since the day Gov. Jay Inslee called upon the private sector to help supply PPE (personal protective equipment), we immediately repurposed our operations to be part of the solution during this extraordinarily difficult time,” said Brian Sherick, Flow’s Global vice president of sales, in a Sept. 3 news release. “We quickly ramped up production here in Kent, recognizing that the demand was significant, and that the state needed immediate help from companies like Flow, who could scale our operations and deliver large quantities, quickly and efficiently.”

The partnership between Flow and the state was established through the state Department of Enterprise Services, whose role has been to source and purchase the needed PPE items identified by the Department of Health. While over 100 businesses responded to the emergency announcement, the priority was placed on vendors who met a number of key criteria, including availability and speed of delivery, as well as cost and ability for the individual companies to meet the required specifications of the materials needed.

“We went to great lengths to select companies who could not only meet the timing, quantities and certification requirements, but also those who were in good standing with state and federal entities with regard to their business history, practices, and licensing,” said Des McGahern, chief operations officer at the Department of Enterprise Services. “DES also prioritizes opportunity for small businesses and state-certified minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses, to the extent possible.”

Flow began providing face shields to dozens of medical facilities, small businesses and first responders in early April, while DES was rapidly ramping up and evaluating potential providers. Flow reached out early, and followed up quickly with samples, timetables and different delivery scenarios.

Thanks to Flow’s deep experience with complex supply chain management and highly technical manufacturing and its local headquarters in Kent, it didn’t take long for the company to align efforts with the state and start production.

“We’ve made sure that anyone who needs a face shield can order from Flow, even if they only need one,” said Leanne Peduzzi, senior vice president of Global Aftermarket for Shape Technologies Group – Flow’s parent company. “However, working with the state government required a different level of effort and complexity, from the pricing and sourcing of raw materials, to the timing of production and delivery. DES was very helpful in guiding us through this effort, and the impact of having this much inventory readily available for distribution cannot be measured.”

Flow’s face shields are constructed robustly for multiple use and cleaning, primarily of high-grade Polyethylene Terephthalate modified with Glycol (PETG), a material commonly used in the manufacture of FDA-approved face shields, along with hypoallergenic foam padding that rests against the user’s forehead and an elastic band for “one size fits all” simplicity and comfort.

Flow’s face shields are available online for direct purchase and for third parties who wish to donate funds for production and drop shipment of face shields to recipients of their choice. For more information, go online to flowwaterjet.com and https://www.flowforthefrontline.com/.

In addition, the company is making its technical specifications and detailed cutting and assembly instructions available to waterjet operators everywhere via download from the same website.

A Flow spokesperson said the company doesn’t expect to make a profit from the production of face shields. The shields cost $4.50 each, according to the company website.


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