The US Capitol on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, USA, 12 January 2019. The current partial shutdown of the US federal government, now the longest in US history, has many federal employees including Secret Service agents and officers working unpaid.The current partial shutdown of the US federal government becomes the longest in US history, Washington, USA - 12 Jan 2019

The U.S. textile industry has redefined the meaning of “material matters.”

Textile executives have united to produce critical personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospitals and health-care workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., according to the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), a Washington, D.C.-based trade association that represents the U.S. textile industry.

And the swift response to the crisis is what’s most impressive. “In factories across the country, textile companies are retooling production virtually overnight to produce PPE products ranging from hospital gowns, face masks and shoe covers to scrubs. The industry is playing a critical role in the nation’s manufacturing strategy and solution to help contribute to the high demand for these products,” the organization said.

NCTO president and ceo Kim Glas, said, “Coordinating with local hospitals, health-care organizations, the entire U.S. production chain and federal agencies, the textile industry has been at the forefront of the incredible manufacturing effort, contributing to the country’s rapid response to the rising needs of frontline workers.

“This industry has taken the lead in this effort, utilizing American manufacturing facilities and workers, despite facing many challenges in this environment. Our industry will continue to do all they can to serve the American people, frontline hospital workers and patients at this time,” she added.

Here, textile and fiber firms share their stories about responding to the coronavirus pandemic, and thoughts on the industry-at-large.

Hanesbrands Inc.

“Our employees and those of our consortium partners have been working around the clock to transition production from basic apparel to face mask production. This has required amazing cooperation and close coordination among the government, raw material suppliers, logistics providers and our supply chain employees,” said Michael E. Faircloth, Hanesbrands group president, global operations, American casualwear and e-commerce.

“Together we are achieving a monumental task, which has resulted in the manufacture and delivery of millions of masks already with hundreds of millions more to come soon. Apparel industry leaders, particularly the consortium members, have successfully turned on a dime to meet the greater good of society.”

Lenzing Fibers Inc.

“Like many companies, Lenzing was working to understand exactly what was needed during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and we already had fibers in a variety of PPE applications,” said David Adkins, commercial manager, Americas, textiles, at Lenzing. “Thanks to the information provided by NCTO and several other industry organizations, we were able to better clarify market needs and determine and provide appropriate products to fit the markets requirement.”

MMI Textiles Inc.

“For our part, MMI has been focusing on raw materials for all four gown levels, both immediate inventory and future production orders, N95 and personal protection masks, face shields and any other PPE raw material,” said Amy Bircher, president and founder, MMI.

“We successfully helped secure immediate raw material for Crye Precision, and they gave a shout out to us on a press conference with the Mayor of New York City. We have secured finished masks to donate to local hospitals that we imported from overseas, and also bought face shields locally to donate. MMI is stocking a variety of widths of elastic for use in a variety of PPE applications — our plan is to create a robust stock option so that customers can ultimately pull product for immediate delivery.”

The Lycra Company

Julien Born, president, apparel, for The Lycra Company, said, “Now more than ever, the medical community and other frontline workers are in critical need of well-fitting Personal Protective Equipment [PPE] that helps keep them safe. We are encouraged by the quick action of many of our customers who have shifted production to produce masks and other protective devices.

“And with the inclusion of Lycra fiber, we hope to help our customers create a better wearer experience, so frontline workers can focus on what matters most — the health and wellness of our communities,” he added.

Unifi Inc.

“We have more than 100 customers producing masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment needed by our first responders, medical personnel and military in the fight against COVID-19,” said Tom Caudle, president and ceo of Unifi. “At Unifi, we’re proud to play a part in the fight by providing the fiber they need.”

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