To Mike Galiazzo, president of the Regional Manufacturing Institute of Maryland (RMI), the early days of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic were about obtaining information.
To be more precise, it was about manufacturers finding out if they could make what the market is calling for.
“Earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, we didn’t have many answers to offer but now we have more,” said Galiazzo. “RMI worked closely with the Maryland Department of Commerce to get information out to the industry about critical programs and to encourage manufacturers to let the state know what they make.”
Manufacturers were also offering capabilities to help address the need for components or end products for the medical industry, asking RMI for connection to the right resources. Many wanted to partner with other manufacturers.
Based on these requests, RMI launched its Maryland Made to Save Lives initiative, with a directory of firms that are listing their capabilities and product offerings to help Maryland health care workers and hospitals. It includes more than 85 members and is available at https://rmiofmaryland.com/coronavirus.
The first thing to do, said Galiazzo, was “to address what’s going on ‘under the hood,’ ” regarding workers not coming in, contracts being cancelled and handling payroll and handling a messaging system.
He said, “In most cases, we’re sharing information from authoritative sources on the federal and state levels. One is information for a database for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), which RMI has been promoting.”
Companies sending information to MEMA about their capabilities is important, he said, “but the RMI directory for manufacturers in the medical field lists what components and end products they can make to apply to the medical supply chain. If a company has a part, it needs to let other companies know.”
One issue today is that companies that are trying to help are running out of source materials, Galiazzo said. “A supply chain is needed to make a finished product, so our website will help people know who makes what. That way, companies can more easily contact another company or a bank.”
Noting that the RMI effort is meant to complement the state’s request that manufacturers sign up for MEMA, he added, “This is more a horizontal effort than vertical.”
Mike Kelleher, executive director of the Maryland Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP), said the overall manufacturing community “has been incredibly responsive to supply critical supply chain needs.
“Many companies have stepped up to help by making products they don’t usually make,” Kelleher said. “Sewing shops are making surgical masks, such as Fashions Unlimited in Baltimore City and Strouse of Westminster, which makes adhesives, is now making surgical masks.”
He added that MEP is combining the capabilities of Maryland manufacturers at a national level via the MEP National Network, which is part of the National Institute of Standards MEP, the parent funding agency.
Still, he said that relatively few businesses can shift gears to cater to this new market.
“The flip side,” said Kelleher, “is that the manufacturing community is hurting as it came to a screeching halt. Many of the supply chains have been interrupted, so some companies are struggling to get raw materials, or they’ve had customer orders cancelled or put on hold.”
Still, there are companies like Marlin Steel Products, which is located just over the Anne Arundel County line in Baltimore City.
Drew Greenblatt, the company president of the wire basket maker, called Galiazzo after receiving a request to make wire holders for test tubes used for COVID-19 testing.
“The order came just after 6 p.m. on Friday,” said Greenblatt, who worked until late at night all weekend with his staff. “We got done at 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, drove the order to BWI [Thurgood Marshall Airport] to ship it – and the plane was canceled. So, we hired two drivers from AFP Global Logistics and their team drove 1,100 miles to drop off the test tube racks by Monday morning.”
But that success story led to the now common problem: Marlin needs wire and sheet metal to handle the demand for the test tube holders.
“But if Johns Hopkins, the University of Maryland or a local lab needs components and/or racks or a myriad of industrial medical, automotive or aerospace components,” he said, “we can supply them.”
On the Ground
Shifting gears has also been the mantra in recent weeks at Columbia’s Prime Manufacturing Technologies, where President Luke Chow has led a charge to address the shortage of protective gear.
“We were busy designing and tooling up to produce face shields and N95 masks as well as hunting down the scarce materials to make the items,” said Chow. “We’ve rolled out our first batch of face shields and have ramped up to producing 100,000 per month.”
As for the impact of Covid19, Chow added that a few of Prime’s customers pushed out their delivery needs, while another shut down for three weeks.
“We expect some serious slow-down in some areas, but our overseas customers seem to still be going strong,” he said, though noting another part of the struggle.
“Freight costs going in and out of China,” he said, “have gone way up.”
By Mark R. Smith | Senior Writer | The Business Monthly | May 2020 Issue