Drew Greenblatt got a call last week that a medical device manufacturer client was rapidly ramping up testing for COVID-19 and needed wire racks to hold test tubes.
The company reached out to Greenblatt, president of Marlin Steel Wire Products, last Thursday, placed a formal order by 6:05 p.m. Friday and the new racks, a product design Marlin had never made before, were delivered by truck 1,100 miles away Monday morning.
The quick turnaround was emblematic of a burgeoning response by Maryland and national manufacturers to the coronavirus pandemic, which is requiring more resources, such as masks, gloves and gowns for health care providers and even the wire racks that hold test tubes.
“Everybody’s pulling together. It’s real Rosie the Riveter stuff,” said Greenblatt. “People are fired up to contribute. All of our families are locked down at home, and we would like to contribute in our small way to defeat COVID. Hopefully by doing our activities, there’s a chance we could kill the pandemic fast.”
Maryland manufacturers plan to play a role in keeping hospitals, health care providers, first responders and others stocked with the protective gear and other medical supplies as COVID-19 begins to drain resources.
The Regional Manufacturing Institute of Maryland began creating a list Monday of firms in the medical supply chain that can help make what is needed. By Tuesday, 27 manufacturers had signed onto the Maryland Made to Save Lives initiative as a way to show medical suppliers and manufacturers who is available.
“Many of those items that you hear talked about… they are all part of that medical supply chain,” said Mike Galiazzo, the manufacturing institute’s president. “If somebody was looking for a manufacturer that was involved in making something for the supply chain, they could go and look where that is.”
The Maryland Department of Commerce is also developing a plan to spend $5 million to incentivize companies to help produce currently needed medical supplies.
Hospitals have said they will need masks, gloves, gowns and more personal protective equipment as the virus spreads. Often these pieces of equipment have to be changed for each patient and must be worn whenever a provider is administering the COVID-19 test.
First responders and other people who must continue to interact with the public are also wearing protective equipment.
Companies are also ramping up their ability to make other hospital equipment. Automaker Ford announced Tuesday that it was working with 3M and GE Healthcare to make respirators. General Motors has also reached out to manufacturers in its supply chain, including suppliers in Maryland, to see what they can make, Galiazzo said.
Xometry, a Gaithersburg-based firm that offers an on-demand marketplace for manufacturers and clients, has also seen the demand for medical supplies and related products.
“We are seeing a significant increase in medical and COVID-related projects from a range of different customers,” said Bill Cronin, the firm’s chief revenue officer. “Our organization is reaching out to a wide range of customers on the medical side to see what we can do and help.”
Greenblatt, of Marlin Steel, hopes that his company’s story and the stories of other manufacturers are also warnings to governments that manufacturers should continue to be considered essential businesses.
Even manufacturers that make seemingly unrelated products can be needed, he said, like the local cardboard box manufacturer he used to ship the wire racks made last weekend.
“My concern is that other important, critical supply chain vendors will be shut down in a broad-brush approach and that will be harmful not only to our economy, but our ability to fight COVID in the first place,” he said. “America is going to whup this virus. There is no doubt about that in my mind. But you need our factories to make that happen.”