After issuing a call to arms to business to help supply or manufacture PPE, the WMCA has teamed up with Medilink WM, the region’s industry association for the life sciences and medical technology sectors and the WMAHSN’s link to the wider industry, who have been supporting the recruitment of suitable businesses.
Two of many businesses that came forward were Autins Group PLC, specialists in providing materials and products for acoustic and thermal management solutions, and Contechs Holdings Ltd, a T1 automotive design, development & trimming consultancy. Both companies were exploring how manufacturing capabilities, facilities and skills could be used to address the issue of supplying PPE products but thanks to the WMAHSN, industrial gateway team they are now working collaboratively.
Initially, Autins was manufacturing face masks utilising its skills and knowledge of specialist acoustic and insulation materials and Contechs was supporting specialist workwear companies with preparing material to produce scrubs, using its large cutting platform. Both these companies would have had to furlough all, or the majority of their staff and their manufacturing technology would otherwise have been dormant due to the shutdown of the automotive sector was it not for this work.
Chris Dyke, Connectivity Manager at Medilink WM, the WMAHSN industry gateway organisation, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that a lot of organisations have had to explore new ways of working and that WMAHSN had to call upon the region’s businesses to help keep our healthcare workforce safe. Not only have we been successful in finding organisations via the WMCA Challenge that can help with this, but we have also managed to link two businesses together that will benefit from each other’s knowledge and expertise long-term.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “It is great to see two local companies with no prior experience of PPE manufacturing coming together to help support the West Midlands during this difficult time.
“I know these are just two of many businesses across the region who answered our call to arms, and the response from organisations looking to help has been brilliant to see.”
Since being linked together by WMAHSN, the two organisations have now been working together on manufacturing face masks. Autins is continuing to produce the face masks while Contechs has been subcontracted and is using sewing and trimming expertise to finalise and attach ear loops to the masks.
Joshua Kimberling, Autins’ Group Sales Director, said: “During a time of significant downturn in Autins’ largest sector, Automotive, our response has been to look for the opportunities to make a positive contribution during the current crisis. Using our expertise in materials and manufacturing, Autins is bringing face mask manufacturing back to the UK. It has been great to be supported by other UK companies also wanting to do the right thing.”
Pete Jarvis, Contechs MD, said that being able to diversify the business using their world class facilities has not only meant the company can utilise their highly skilled workforce from the automotive sector to play a key role in the COVID-19 response but it also allowed the company to bring its workforce back from furlough and hopes this will be the start of building the much needed UK resilience and are preparing for the future with a long term diversification plan.
Following the two automotive companies being introduced, Autins and Contechs are in talks to collaborate on other areas of work within the automotive sector post-Covid-19. The two companies are located just 20 miles apart and are exploring ways to combine industry knowledge, skills and expertise.
For further information on WMAHSN, visit: https://www.wmahsn.org/