A campaign to boost global production of face masks during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis is starting to gain momentum in the UK, with Kent manufacturers answering the call.
The #makemasks movement, first launched with great success in the Czech Republic, is now underway in the UK, with Broadstairs business Silent Gliss Ltd among those to come together to produce non-medical cloth masks for workers in strategic industries.
The masks are being made to a recently released AFNOR Specification which has been developed by a team of international experts and has provided a template for manufacturers to follow around the world.
Alex Pawle, director of Kent Business Investors, contacted Locate in Kent’s manufacturing specialist, Mark Knowlton last Friday to discuss ways of co-ordinating a UK plan from Kent to boost production.
Mark advised Alex to contact Silent Gliss, a manufacturer of window furnishings in normal times with a formidable sewing capability perfect for the task. On being contacted, Simon Waller, the company’s head of production, worked Friday night and into Saturday making the first trial masks and refining the process.
The next challenge was finding a supply of elastic. Calls were put into a number of Kent haberdasheries to no avail, before Jim Symes owner of the Ashford Sewing Centre picked up the phone. Jim and his wife Jackie immediately jumped into action, opened their shop and collected 200m of elastic to donate to the cause.
Alex Pawle, said: “These ‘barrier masks’ complement protective measures already in place, public health guidelines and social distancing rules. They are intended for workers in strategic industries like food manufacture and distribution, food retail, delivery, water management and waste management.
“I’m hoping that more companies across the UK will be able to join the campaign and we have set up a website for people and businesses to sign up to give whatever support they can.”
“If you can manufacture cloth masks in volume and have a sewing capability, or if you have access to nonwoven or woven fabric, please sign up via www.makemasksuk.org. You will then be provided with the manufacturing specification.
“We would also like to hear from companies in these sectors and general factories like mine who would benefit from having facemasks for their workers. We will do all we can to match supply with demands.”
Mark Knowlton, manufacturing specialist at Locate in Kent, said: “The Covid-19 crisis has been a challenging time for the Kent economy, but we are blessed to have businesses here in the county showing the innovation and drive that will be vital when we emerge on the other side.
“The manufacturing sector, in particular, has shown great adaptability and recognising the importance of working together from switching production lines for ventilator equipment to producing facemasks for people in key sectors that are continuing to function. They’re a credit to both Kent and the UK.”
To find out about support available for businesses disrupted by Covid-19 in Kent, visit: www.locateinkent.com