Keeping Health Care Workers Safe
ILC Dover supplies life-saving respirator system
ILC Dover has added 40 people over the past two months to meet skyrocketing demand for an air-purifying respirator system that front-line health care professionals use to treat COVID-19 patients in quarantine wards across the United States.
“We’ve seen over a 1,000 percent increase in demand over the past year, most of it in a four-week period,” ILC Dover President and CEO Fran DiNuzzo says. “We didn’t have enough raw material supply, space or people to meet that demand, so we pivoted our organization to first fix our supply issue.”
ILC Dover’s Sentinel XL respirator system is comprised of a blower, filters, a hood, and a hose that connects the blower to the hood. The Frederica facility produces some components and does final assembly. When demand far surpassed supply and the long offshore supply chain for hoods made it impossible for the company to meet that need, the team had to look inside its four walls for a solution that resulted in the Sentinel XL EZ BioHood.
“The engineering team looked at what we had around the building that would work for the hoods, designed a new product, tested it, got approval from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in five weeks — NIOSH approval itself normally takes a few months — and started shipments,”DiNuzzo says.
DiNuzzo says ILC Dover is producing three to four times more respirators today than it was in January and ramping up to near 30 times January’s rate. He expects the need for the company’s system will continue even as the need to protect health care workers in quarantine labs diminishes.
“It appears as if demand peaked in mid-April,” DiNuzzo says. “Between resupplying hospital stocks, resupplying the reserves the federal government maintains, and the need to replace components like hoods, batteries and filters, we believe demand and production capacity will stay high until a vaccine is identified and distributed and we can’t project when that will happen.”
DiNuzzo says ILC’s products are used in a hospital atmosphere that requires significantly better filtration than the N95 mask.
The 40 new employees have been hired on contract as most production-team members are. ILC Dover seeks to move those temporary employees to permanent, as it’s doing now with another 25 to 30 people in Frederica.
The 73-year-old company employs about 450 people in Frederica, and more than 7,800 in six facilities in North America, Europe and Asia, and is perhaps best known for making space suits that outfitted every astronaut in the Apollo program, including the 12 who have walked on the moon. It was sold in February to New York-based New Mountain Capital, an investment firm with more than $20 billion in assets under management, although the leadership team has stayed on.