In response to the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Norwalk Furniture has shifted its production from custom upholstered furniture to sewing protective face masks and medical gowns for local hospitals and healthcare personnel. Efforts began this week at its 440,000 square-foot facility.
Production began on April 6, after the company received its designation for “Essential Business Status” from Huron County, Ohio. The designation allows Norwalk to redirect its production efforts and provides for a group of cutters, sewers and pattern makers to voluntarily return to work after being furloughed under the state’s stay-at-home mandate.
“A remarkable collaboration has taken place between our employees and executives at several community hospitals in just a matter of a few short days,” said Troy Pittenger, vice president of finance with Norwalk Furniture. “They’ve demonstrated their true creativity and innovative drive to find ways to use suitable, on-hand hospital materials that are readily available. Now, we can quickly produce these vital PPE products that our local healthcare workers rely on to remain safe, while helping those in need.
“The Norwalk community has been such a positive supporter of our company over the years and our employees have really stepped-up to personally show their appreciation with these efforts,” he continued. “In addition to performing our civic duty, many of our employees have family members on the front line of the health services industry. It seems as if all of us have some personal connection to trying to beat this virus.”
Following the lead from the federal government, the state of Ohio issued an extended stay-at-home order. Consequentially, the company has moved its furniture production re-opening date to May 4 from April 7. With this extension, the company expects to move most of its furniture orders out about five to six weeks after their originally scheduled ship dates to reflect the new production timeframe. The company also maintains plenty of raw materials to resume production at full capacity when the stay-at-home orders are lifted.
“To witness our command team redirect their efforts to meet this critical need has been a ray of sunshine in these foggy few weeks,” said Caroline Hipple, President of Norwalk Furniture. “We have, together, weathered many storms. We will weather this one too, together, and we’ll be stronger on the other side as a result.”