Augusta factory increases production of medical masks to help with global shortage


An Augusta factory is increasing production of medical masks since supplies out of China have been halted due to the coronavirus.

Medicom is a Canada based company that has facilities all over the world. One of their factories, United Medical Enterprises, is in Augusta, Georgia. The company is ramping up the production of masks and other medical supplies as the number of coronavirus cases continues to go up.

“Demand just surged in a week, [it] got multiplied by 5 to 10,” says Guillaume Laverdure Medicom’s Group COO and President for North America.

Laverdure explains why there was such a spike in demand for medical masks.

“We estimate that about 80% of the face masks worldwide are manufactured in China so when China decided to shut down their exports, overnight it was 80% of the world’s supply which was cut,” Laverdure says.

Laverdure says Medicom has helped out with health crisis management in the past. The company’s involvement with health crisis management started when there was a glove shortage with the HIV crisis.

“We’ve lived [through] SARS, H1N1, Ebola, MERS, so we’re used to this sudden peak in demand,” Laverdure says.

Medicom saw the signs in December and then in late January 20th, started to increase production.

“We’re basically doubling the capacity of the factory over a period of 4-6 months between additional shifts and additional equipment,” Laverdure says. “Here in Augusta, Georgia we went from 70 people and we’re going to 100 people. In France, we’re going from 100 people to 150 people.”

On Tuesday, French President tweeted that they would requisition all stocks and the production of protective masks.

Tuesday March 3 Tweet from French President Emmanuel Macron

“We’re trying to figure out the details as we speak,” Laverdure said about their French operations.

Medicom only sells to distributors, large organizations and some hospitals, but that has not stopped people from reaching out to the factory directly. Laverdure says his LinkedIn account has been inundated with requests.

The increased demand for medical masks will eventually subside, but the additional resources will still be needed to stabilize the market.

“It will take a bit more time than usual to rebuild inventory, safety stock and re-balance the whole supply chain between manufacturers, distributors, hospitals, dental offices, government agencies and so forth so it will take a bit more time than usual,” Laverdure points out.

Laverdure says the main demand increase is for medical masks. They have also seen a slight spike in the need for isolation gowns and gloves, which they make also.

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