Brownmed: Improving Life is our Passion
10 May 2021
Blog, Workforce, Manufacturing, News, Business Retention and Expansion
The world seemed to come to a screeching halt mid-March of 2020. Store shelves were emptied, people were asked to stay home if they could and wear masks if they couldn’t. Yet amidst the uncertainty and confusion, many individuals, companies and communities stepped up.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Brownmed saw their sales drop drastically. At the same time, they were hearing about a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and medical professionals across the country reusing their PPE. With a company motto of “Improving Life is Our Passion,” the Brownmed team set to work to improve the lives of these healthcare workers.
The Brownmed production team began manufacturing face masks, but cotton fabric was difficult to source, and they didn’t have the personnel resources to effectively continue producing masks. They made enough for the Brownmed employees to wear at work and provided some to local hospitals and communities, but they soon stopped mask production. On the other hand, the company was confident they had the knowledge and resources to produce face shields.
Some of Brownmed’s current products include adhering foam to plastic or using elastic to wear or secure the product, so the company already had the suppliers for the foam and elastic and the knowledge to adhere the pieces. The purchasing team worked quickly and found a plastic supplier out of Mason City for the shield portion. After the prototype was made and approved, production of Part #51360 began, a number chosen as a fun nod to the zip code in which the face shields were being produced.
April 22, 2020 was the first production day of the face shields, and Brownmed was able to produce 2,400. Just a little over a week later, production had jumped to 15,000 per day. On the peak production day a month later, the team was able to produce 35,000 face shields.
The teamwork across the company and community was important to the success of the company. The purchasing team found vendors for the necessary products that went into the face shields and worked with them daily to ensure enough raw materials would be on hand. Several departments offered ideas to improve processes and make the face shields more efficiently. The production team worked long hours to turn the raw materials into face shields and even hired some students in the region to put face shields together in Spirit Lake and Spencer. Maintenance staff not only kept equipment functioning properly, but the jigs they designed and built allowed production to keep up with demand. The face shields were shipping out the door just as fast as they were being made. Over one million units were shipped out locally as well as to large national medical and dental distributors. It was all hands on deck, and everyone involved worked to help healthcare workers across the country.
“I can’t say enough good things about our employees,” Brownmed Plant Manager Brian Miller said. “Looking back, it feels good to have been able to help so many people, and our team’s hard work and determination made that possible.”
Brownmed is a medical device manufacturer that began in Hartley, Iowa when Doctor Ivan Brown, Sr. invented the Plastalume® Finger Splint. Now the company manufactures over 130 products at their Spirit Lake manufacturing facility to distribute to a worldwide market.