Kiwi businesses shift gear to crank out urgently needed PPE for essential services

Businesses across the country are putting their skills and machines to use, producing personal protective equipment, otherwise known as PPE, for essential services.               

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The mission keeps staff in jobs, factories open and health workers safe. Source: 1 NEWS

Metalform in Dannevirke has an assembly line that will be a welcome sight for any health worker.

But managing director Campbell Easton says it was a risk to set up. 

"We just decided to tool up and we bought all the materials at our own risk and decided just to do it," he told 1 NEWS

The company usually produces high-end electronic machinery but facing an uncertain future under lockdown, switched to making face shields.

"We were looking down the barrel of redundancies or mass redundancies when we get back from this, so hopefully we can secure everyone's future here," Mr Easton says.

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If money had been spent weeks ago, a healthy surplus of personal protective equipment would already be here, critics say. Source: 1 NEWS

They're now making 30,000 face shields a week, supplying three DHBs and negotiating contracts in Australia and the Pacific Islands.

"A lot of businesses are considering what Level 3 means for them and understanding that we are probably going to be in Level 3 for quite some time, so PPE is a really important part of what that picture looks like, so I can see us making these shields for a reasonably long time."

Face shields are just one part of PPE.

Whanganui company QSI is making up to 100,000 face masks a day.

Manufacturing NZ wants the emphasis on local production, so it's registered 250 Kiwi businesses that can make PPE.

But New Zealand is still reliant on overseas suppliers, with 75 million items expected to land in the next eight weeks.

Catherine Beard from Manufacturing NZ says businesses are throwing their hands up to help out.

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It comes as their workload has increased with extra homebirths during lockdown. Source: 1 NEWS

"Everyone wants to help in this situation if they can and particularly if they're a business that's been unable to work because they weren't classified essential, so they've got a lot of staff sitting around not doing anything," she says.

Mr Easton says it could be up to the central Government to help support some factories diversify.

"With the right support, repurposing current factories makes a lot of sense."

In the event of a breakdown in the supply chain, the Ministry of Health says it will first use the national reserve stocks, but officials are looking at ways to make the products here in New Zealand from locally sourced materials.

In the meantime this Kiwi company isn't waiting around, ramping up production to supply the front line.